Ask Wine Wizard

Cooking With Wine


Diane Heath — via email asks,

As a gourmet enthusiast, I have been curious to understand whether reducing (simmering) a red wine by approximately 3⁄4 will reduce its acidity? Thank you for any insight!


Making a red wine reduction is a great way to create a concentrated, flavorful sauce! I do it frequently myself when I’m cooking and it works great with red, white or sweet wines. Just be aware that when you have a cup or so of wine simmering away on the stove, what is simmering off is mostly water and alcohol. Everything else, the tannin, the sugar, the colored components and even the vast majority of the acids will remain in the pot as they are not light enough (volatile enough) compounds to “boil” off like steam or ethanol vapor. In a sense, you are concentrating all the flavored elements, including acids, so expect the result to be denser, more concentrated, and in fact more acidic than the original wine. This is why it is so common in reduction sauces to add a little sugar if it’s not there already.

One of my favorite procedures is as follows:

• Brown the meat of your choice in a hot cast iron skillet, flipping once. When meat is about 75% “done” to your liking (or to safe cooking temperature), remove to a plate in a medium-low oven.

• Drain all but about a tablespoon of the fat from the skillet, keep over medium heat and sauté about 2 tablespoons of finely chopped shallots until soft.

• Add about a cup of wine (red or white) to the pan and scrape up all the brown bits of “deglaze” with a wooden spoon.

• Add about a tablespoon of something sweet like honey, blackberry jam or redcurrant jelly and reduce mixture until syrupy. At this point, the volume should be about 4 to 5 tablespoons.

• Just before serving, whisk in about 2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into a few pieces, add about ¼ teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme, a few grinds of pepper, a pinch of salt, then stir to incorporate and pour over your meat.

Bon appétit!

Related links:
• Using wines from around the world, Mikoli Weaver whips up a five-course menu that is sure to impress the guests in this story from the archives: http://winemakermag.com/story27