If you are like me, you pay pretty close attention to the myriad ingredients you purchase in order to cook a meal. I go out of my way to shop at specific markets that I know have better produce, or butchers that offer better cuts of meat. I sift through bins to find the best piece of fruit, or the freshest, crispest vegetables. I buy bread from one or two particular bakeries.
I often cook from recipes; they are usually fairly specific, and I go out of my way to locate each ingredient in the best and freshest form available to me. If a recipe calls for sugar, I use natural raw cane sugar. When it wants oregano, I have fresh, organic oregano that I’ve dried myself. I make my own maraschino cherries and grenadine for cocktails, and I even have homemade bacon in my refrigerator right now.
I put forth all this effort in an attempt to cook something fabulous each time I step into my kitchen, yet when a recipe calls for wine, and many do, I am at a loss. Everyone seems to be– even friends with a firm grasp of what wines to drink with a given dish are puzzled when asked to recommend an appropriate wine for cooking. Recipes *never* tell you what kind of wine to use! So, like most people, after spending an afternoon at farmer’s markets, bakeries, butchers, and grocery stores, almost as an afterthought I grab the cheapest wine I can find. Red or white is about the only decision I make, and often, when recipes don’t specify, I don’t even take that into consideration.
Enter my newest discovery: Académie Wines. This is one of the most clever ideas I’ve heard of in years, and frankly I’m baffled as to why no company has done this before. Académie sells four different wines specifically designed for cooking. I’ve tried all four, and they are uniformly good. The label says it all– each wine is blended for usage in cooking certain dishes. So far I’ve tried the wines with beef, chicken breast, lamb chops, salmon, and scallops, and have yet to be disappointed. The difference in the finished product is sometimes subtle, but always noticeable. Each wine brings out elements in the dish that were otherwise muted when using randomly chosen wines.
The other thing I like about these wines is that they come in bottles half the size of a traditional wine bottle. That leaves me just enough leftover wine for a glass to drink whilst cooking (it’s also tasty drinking wine). No more leftover bottles that gradually go bad.
It’s rare that I extol the virtues of a specific brand or product in this blog, and in fact this may be the first time I have ever done so, but I think this is a very useful and unique product, and most of my readers will be glad to know about it. I should add– I don’t really know if it is available outside Northern California. The Académie Wines web page can probably tell you, and answer any other questions you have. If you buy some and like it, let me know– I am actually really curious to get feedback from people about this stuff.