“Only cook with wine you would drink.” Raise your hand if you’ve heard this at least once. Sure, you know not to use a wine you wouldn’t drink in your dish, but cooking with wine is a skill that requires practice and knowledge. So here are a few of our tips:

Wine can be that secret ingredient that adds wonderful flavor and texture to your favorite recipe. But pick the wrong wine, add too much or too little of it and there you have it… Dinner is ruined.

Let’s start with some basic tips:

There are three main ways to use wine in the kitchen – as a marinade ingredient, as a sauce component, and as a flavoring to finish the dish. Something important to remember is that wine is meant to balance, enhance, and accent the flavor and aroma of food. As with any seasoning, the amount of wine used in cooking is crucial: too little doesn’t add much to your dish, while too much can be overpowering.

Another thing to keep in mind: make sure to let the wine cook off before adding anything else to the dish, or even before serving. Let the wine simmer, give it time to impart its aromas in your dish, if you want to avoid that unpleasing uncooked wine flavor.

Before we get into it in more depth, remember that yes, there might be a few general rules when it comes to cooking with wine, but you should always feel free to break them.

Consider Components

Wine contains sugars, acids and tannins, and these will all show up in your plate (think of it as pairing food and wine).  It’s all about balance: if you recipe calls for acidic ingredients such as lemon juice or vinegar, make sure to cut back to make room for the acid that’s in the wine – especially with white wine. A few practical examples: cook your delicate fish or vegetables, with a dry non-oaked wine. If your recipe is packed with plenty of sweet ingredients, like onions, carrots and tomatoes, don’t hesitate to go for a fuller-bodied, less dry red. For deeper flavors, go ahead and experiment with fortified wines like Port, Sherry, Madeira and Marsala.

Red or White?

Think of the wine you’d serve to pair with the dish – this is the type of wine you should use to make the dish. Some will even go as far as using the exact same bottle. When cooking with red wine, try to watch out for tannins – they can become harsh when concentrated in reduction sauces; although proteins found in meat and dairy tend to soften tannins.

Think Regional

Cook with wine that comes from the same region as the origin of the dish you’re making. Josh Adler, wine buyer forSan Francisco’s famous Bi-Rite market, says it best: “I like to stick with wine that comes from the same place as the ingredients or recipe I’m using. Food and wine have always evolved in harmony with one another, so they’re naturally matched.”

One last piece of advice: wine does not necessarily belong in every dish. Use wine is cooking only when it has something to contribute to the finished dish. Bust most importantly, experiment, have fun with it!