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Wine is an essential item in many kitchens. It can add depth and flavor to a variety of dishes as an ingredient in marinades, stews, sauces and desserts. But be careful with what you’re adding to your dishes.

A good example of a wine to avoid is grocery store “cooking wine,” as it frequently contains additives such as preservatives and salt, and using it will likely change the taste of a recipe (and not in a good way).

Also, consider the shelf life of opened bottles. Avoid cooking with half-consumed bottles that have been sitting for weeks next to the olive oil. The same goes for the bottle that’s been in the refrigerator since last month’s dinner party. A general rule for open bottles is two to three days for whites and up to four days for reds. White wine will lose its zip and reds tend to develop a raisin or licorice flavor.

If you are concerned about how much alcohol remains in cooked foods, alcohol boils at 173 degrees and water boils at 212 degrees, so if you are braising, simmering or using another high-heat method where the food is cooked for more than an hour, much of the alcohol will evaporate, leaving only the flavor. However, depending on the cooking method, 5 percent to 85 percent of the alcohol can remain in cooked food.

Often, recipes list only red or white wine in the ingredients, leaving the cook to choose the wine. For the best results, consider how it will be used before grabbing just any bottle of red or white.

Slow cooking or marinades

Wine used as a marinade adds a richer flavor to the dish. Chefs differ on whether the wine acts to tenderize the meat or simply adds a more complex flavor. There’s no need to splurge on this wine because many recipes will call for a half bottle or more for marinating.


  • 2007 Jacob’s Creek Shiraz, Australia (about $10 retail)


  • 2007 Bodega Norton Malbec, Argentina (about $12 retail)

In desserts

Sweet wines such as Muscat or Asti can be used in baked dishes such as puddings or simply poured over fresh fruits like peaches, strawberries or raspberries.


  • 2007 Michele Chiarlo Moscato D’Asti Nivole, Italy, 375ml (about $14 retail)


  • NV Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley, California (about $30 retail)

Creamy sauces

White wines are preferred for a creamy sauce served with pork, chicken or fish. Wine keeps the cream from tasting too sweet.


  • 2007 Rosemount Diamond Label Chardonnay, Australia (about $12, retail)


  • 2007 Hess Monterrey Chardonnay, California (about $14 retail)