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Dear Dr. Vinny,
I’m a recovering alcoholic, and I like to cook with wine, but can’t and won’t taste-test the wines I purchase. Will you tell me the name of a wine I can buy that is not expensive? I’d be using it to cook with chicken and fish.
—Barbara, Wilmington, N.C.
I should be clear that if you cook with wine, the vast majority of the alcohol will burn off, but there might be trace amounts remaining. It rather depends on how you’re using the wine—as you might imagine, the longer you cook a dish with wine in it, the more the alcohol will burn off.
When cooking with wine, it’s best to focus on bottlings that are fruity but dry (meaning “not sweet,” like a dessert-style wine would be), so you get some beneficial flavor out of the cooking. For most chicken and fish dishes, the best complement would probably be a white, and the white wine I most tend to cook with is Sauvignon Blanc. There are plenty of affordable examples out there, and some of my favorites come with a twist-off top, making them easier to open and re-close, and they’ll keep in my fridge for a week or so for the next time I need to grab a splash. Other typically dry white wines include Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Chardonnay and Rhône-style white wines like Viognier. I’d avoid cooking with any wines that brag about oaky notes such as toast or vanilla. (WineSpectator.com members can find likely candidates in our Top Values and Easy Finds lists.)
If you need to substitute for wine in a recipe when you don’t have any around, you could always try stock, lemon juice, fruit juices such as apple or grape juice, or even sparkling water.
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