White Wine for Cooking | Cook's Illustrated

When a recipe calls for "dry white wine," it's tempting to grab whatever open bottle is in the fridge, regardless of grape varietal. Sure, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc may taste different straight from the glass, but how much do those distinctive flavor profiles really come through once the wines get cooked down with other ingredients? To find out, we tried three different varietals and a supermarket "cooking wine" in five recipes: braised fennel , risotto , a basic pan sauce, a beurre blanc, and chicken chasseur . In our tests, only Sauvignon Blanc consistently boiled down to a "clean" yet sufficiently acidic flavor—one that played nicely with the rest of the ingredients. Differences between the wines were most dramatic in gently flavored dishes, such as the risotto and beurre blanc. To find out, we ran the same cooking tests with sherry and vermouth, wines fortified with alcohol to increase their shelf life. Sherry was too distinct and didn't fare well in these tests, but vermouth performed well. In fact, its clean, bright flavor bested all but one of the drinking wines. And most bottles cost between $7 and $15, roughly what we spend on white wine for cooking. Sauvignon Blanc: Crisp, clean, and bright, this wine was strong enough to share the spotlight with other ingredients but refused to steal the show. Dry Vermouth: A pleasing sweet/tart balance made this fortified wine a close second. Riesling: This wine's fruity sweetness was out of place in most of the dishes.


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