Any variety of wine can be used in cooking, Aellen says. She says those sold as cooking wines often are high in sodium.
Wine aids in digestion and calms the nerves, Aellen says.
A six-ounce glass of dry wine has about 70 calories, she says. Sweeter wines contain a higher sugar content and have more calories.
The use of wine in food is a matter of taste and preference, says Aellen, author of "Cooking with Wine."
"You have to think of what you're serving; you don't want to confuse the palate," Aellen says.
In the cookbook, now in its second edition, Aellen notes that wine is a flavoring agent.
Fruit acid helps to tenderize meats and has a sour taste. Tannin in the wine has a bitter, astringent taste, and sweetness comes from any residual unfermented sugar. The alcohol has very little flavor and mostly is boiled off with the steam in cooked foods.
Gift says she often uses wine when making stir-fry dishes, and she experiments with different varieties. She uses wine instead of oil as a base, which is a more healthful choice for people who want to eliminate oil from their diet.
Gift says she changes the amount she uses, depending on the recipe.
"I cook the old-fashioned way - a dab here and a dab there," Gift says.
Aellen, who has been married to Jack Aellen, president of Berrywine Plantations, for 46 years, says she never tires of experimenting with wine in recipes.
"I'm a far cry better cook than I was 46 years ago," she says.
A.T. Gift Co. makes sweet wines, and Gift uses many varieties in her cooking. She says the plum flavor makes a good marinade for venison, apple is a good base for stir-frying and stuffing, and cherry is good in cakes or as a ham glaze.
If a bottle of wine in the refrigerator goes flat, it still can be used for cooking. Use it in salads, stir-fry dishes and dressings.
Here are more tips for cooking with wine:
- Use your imagination.
Add wine to a recipe, and write down the amount used, Gift says. If you like the result, make it again; if you don't, vary the amount next time.
- Make the most of marinades.
Use the same variety of wine you will be serving with the meal to marinate meats before grilling, National Pork Producers Council recommends. Substitute wine for the citrus juice or vinegar in the marinade recipe.
The same principle applies when finishing a grilled meat with a wine glaze. Serve guests the same wine that you will use for the glaze, and they will note a flavor connection.
Fish and pork tenderloin need to be marinated from 30 minutes to two hours to acquire new flavors. Tougher cuts need to be marinated longer.
- Don't go overboard.
Add wine gradually to a recipe, Aellen says.
Start with one-eighth of a cup or a couple of tablespoons, and go from there, Aellen says.
"Keep tasting it as you go," she says. "It's a learning process."