Anyone living in Australia will soon tell you that we are experiencing the wettest summer in living memory and anyone who grows grapes in Australia (like we do) will soon tell you what this wet summer has meant to their harvest. For us, personally, we lost them all.
Grape farming like any other farming has its challenges but despite the frustration of this year's non harvest we have had many great years and produced many great wines. No matter the weather we all still love to grow, harvest, produce and drink great wine and for the cooks amongst us it plays an integral and important role in the craft we all love so much.
So, on a positive note I thought you might like to read a few words on the topic of wine from the cookery writer, Anne Willan - published in 1989.
The photographs were taken at our own harvest last year at Broke Road Vineyard.
“Wine can mellow to a remarkable richness when it is simmered in sauces, braises and stews. To avoid a raw taste, it must always be thoroughly reduced during cooking, red wine by half and white wine by even more. First, the alcohol evaporates, then the wine concentrates so the finished dish is rich and mellow. This evaporation may be an integral part of the cooking process, as in the long cooking of a casserole or the simmering of a brown sauce. At other times the wine is reduced on its own, as when red wine is used to deglaze pan juices for a steak.
The quality of the wine used will be reflected in the result. It would not, however, make sense to sacrifice rare or expensive wine in the cooking pan. One quality which will not survive cooking is the sparkle of champagne or similar wines, although a little of the sparkle may survive in uncooked dishes such as champagne sorbet.
The role of fortified wines is different to the above. They are typically added at the end of a cooking process, and the alcohol in them, which will not have been boiled off, remains potent. In fact their use may be a case of 'wine in cooked dishes' rather than 'wine in cookery'. A spoonful of sherry added to a soup just before it is served is not subjected to cooking, although it certainly has its effect on the soup. The Italian fortified wine Marsala is sometimes the best choice for deglazing pan juices.
Wines are also added as an ingredient to marinades. The effect of the wine is then produced before cooking but the effect of the cooking on this use of wine together with the other marinade elements is not significant to the finished dish”.
My own most used use of wine in cookery is for deglazing the pan, usually with a fortified wine or verjuice, green grapes harvested just before veraison (the stage at which the colour turns, generally two months before harvest) - this wine is especially good for chicken or fish. I also love to make herb and wine infusions for lamb, chicken, veal, rabbit, beef and pork – they provide multiple uses as poaching liquids, stocks, marinades and sauces. The list of recipes and methods for the use of wine in cookery is endless as is the subject. Meanwhile, ENJOY!