Conventional wisdom debunker, cooking with wine edition

“Never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink.”

You know that, right? It’s drilled into even those of us who don’t cook very much, and from an early age.

But, it turns out, it’s kinda — well, it’s bullshit. The NYT’s Julia Moskin, bless her, actually did some empirical testing, and it turns out that tannins, for instance, which can be great in wine for drinking, “become unpleasantly astringent when cooked”. Hence this delight:

The final test was a three-way blind tasting of risotto al Barolo…

I made the dish three times in one morning: first with a 2000 Barolo ($69.95), next with a 2005 dolcetto d’Alba ($22.95), and finally with a jack-of-all-wines, a Charles Shaw cabernet sauvignon affectionately known to Trader Joe’s shoppers as Two-Buck Chuck. (Introduced at $1.99, the price is up to $2.99 at the Manhattan store.)

Although the Barolo was rich and complex to drink, of the seven members of the Dining section staff who tasted the risottos, no one liked the Barolo-infused version best. “Least flavorful,” “sharp edges” and “sour,” they said.

The winner, by a vote of 4-to-3, was the Charles Shaw wine, which was the youngest and grapiest in the glass: the tasters said the wine’s fruit “stood up well to the cheese” and made the dish rounder. “It’s the best of both worlds,” one taster said, citing the astringency of the Barolo version and the overripe alcoholic perfume of the dolcetto. The young, fruity upstart beat the Old World classic by a mile.

I love any situation where cheaper is better, and cheapest is best. They don’t come along very often, but this is clearly one of them.

This entry was posted in Not economics. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Conventional wisdom debunker, cooking with wine edition

  1. GK Vaughan says:


    You won’t drink it. I won’t drink it (anymore). But I will entertain offers for a well aged Charles Shaw 2001 Cabernet. The last of the “quality” juice.


  2. wcw says:

    It’s not too bad mulled, either. 2BC is still $2 in California. Shipping costs force a $1 price increase east of a certain point.

    Don’t drink it straight, though.

  3. RichB says:

    If you make the duck legs, cut the amount of coriander in the recipe by a third and, clearly, don’t use a twenty pound bottle of port.

  4. Jake says:

    I hate to be difficult, but this is nonsense. First, people do drink all three wines, so it doesn’t clash with the rule. Second, two-buck chuck is higher in sugar than the other two. That means that when it is reduced, it will turn into a glaze, which is sweet and undoubtedly less acidic than the other two reductions. The lesson here is actually not surprising. When it comes to food, cheaper is almost always better if by better we mean more sweet or salty (both table sugar and salt are quite cheap).

    If you doubt it, just buy some simple table sugar and put it in everything you make. At first, everything will taste “better” until you get tired of its one dimension and will then want to taste other, perhaps more subtle, flavors.

Comments are closed.