Spurning Plonk: Hong Kong Chefs Emphasizing Quality of Cooking Wines


This past Friday South China Morning Post reporter Robin Lynam took her readers inside the kitchens of some of Hong Kong’s best restaurants. Her mission? To investigate the trend in which chefs are refusing to use “cooking” wine for their recipes, deferring to quality quaffers for the delectable dishes. 
“For most of the recorded history of food preparation wine has served not only as a partner to it but also as a cooking liquid,” Lynam wrote. “Nobody seriously advocates using first growth Bordeaux or grand cru Burgundy, of course, but opinions differ on just how good the wine splashed about in the kitchen should be.”
Lynam spoke with a variety of chefs about the matter. She began with Philippe Orrico, chef patron at ON Dining Kitchen and Lounge, and Upper Modern Bistro. 
“You can’t make good white wine sauce or marinade without good white wine. You shouldn’t hesitate to use a good Meursault or whatever it is,” he told Lynam, then went on to give some tips about using wine in cooking. “If you're preparing a lobster with a Meursault butter or a Meursault wine sauce you need a good Meursault – and you need to pour a little more at the end so the guest gets the perfume of the wine.”
Orrico also discussed Port, saying “you can get some very interesting flavours when you use it as a base, or when you use it as a seasoning.” 
Stephane Gortina, executive chef at Spoon, said quality white wine is important when there’s a short cooking time, but its quality becomes less important the longer a dish takes to cook. 
It’s a different story for red wines, though. 
“When a red wine sauce is reduced, it can become very acidic, which is not good for the recipe or the texture of the dish. Poorer quality red wines will lose their structure when you cook with them and use them for reductions,” Gortina told Lynam. “Bordeaux wines are good as they have a lot of tannins and keep their structure.” 
Mandarin Oriental’s chef, Paolo Morresi, agreed with Gortina’s red-wine observation.
“White wines are used to enhance flavours in some foods and make them more intriguing, but in my experience red wines are essential to marinate meat such as beef, lamb and game,” Morresi said. “If the wine is of good quality, there is little that you need to do - you can just reduce it to make a very nice sauce. All you  need is some onions or shallots, garlic, olive oil and juice from your meat.” 

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