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How To Make a Perfect Red Wine Sauce

Updated on February 13, 2012

What you need to make a perfect red wine sauce:

  • A bottle or box of red wine
  • A large pot
  • A frying pan
  • Unsalted butter
  • Heavy cream

A thick luscious red wine sauce can be the highlight of a dish or even a meal. The sauce seems delicate, yet buttery, sharp but fruity, creamy yet never over powering to the dish. The secret to the perfect red wine sauce is not something that takes a five star palate or a decade of cooking experience, all you need is a bit of planning and the correct technique. There are a few, but very crucial principles to creating the perfect sauce to impress your customers or friends.

The first step is to choose the correct wine. This is not nearly as hard as it seems. The important thing to remember is that the sauce will amplify the flavors of the wine. High levels of tannins will create a sharp bitter reduction, so its bets to avoid wines with high tannin concentrations. Likewise, wines with peppery flavors will create an overpowering sauce, one that masks the natural flavors of your protein. In my experience, cabernet for example can contain very high tannin levels, making it difficult to create a complex and subtle flavor. The truth is that mild red wines with subtle fruit and spice make the best sauces. If in doubt, just keep in mind that many high-end restaurants in metropolitan areas use inexpensive boxed wine for reductions because the flavors are less intense.

The Reduction

The next step is to make the initial reduction. Take your bottle, or box of wine and simmer it in a large pot. Make sure it is a level pot high heat at specific points can lead to scorching. Simmer at medium to low heat. Let the water boil away and the wine reduce into a thicker consistency. Make sure that the wine does not scorch, or burn in any way, this will ruin your sauce. A nice slow boil is all you need. The finished wine should have the consistency of heavy cream. Let the reduction cool and pour in to a small container.

Choosing a red wine for sauce should be a fun, not scary task
Choosing a red wine for sauce should be a fun, not scary task

The Method

I have encountered two methods in restaurants to making red wine sauce. The first is the pure, basic and traditional method. Pour your reduction into a small frying pan enough to sauce as many dishes as you have to serve. The amount is important, I typically figure two tablespoons of reduction for each dish.

This is where we have to mention the second method. In this method, add one-third parts cream to two-thirds wine reduction. This can be increased to equal parts cream and reduction if you want a creamier but still flavorful sauce. I prefer the cream addition. I find that it holds the sauce longer, the flavors are more enhanced, and it provides a buffer against the sauce breaking.

Now, let the wine reduction heat up, until the edges begin to bubble.

Remove your pan from the heat, when the bubbling stops add your butter. I use approximately one tablespoon of butter per dish The temperature is important, if the pan is too hot, the butter will clarify and ruin (break) your sauce. Add the butter into the center of the pan. Also, make sure it is cold butter as warm butter will clarify and ruin your sauce. Swirl the pan on a horizontal plane, do not toss or use a spoon or whisk. You want the pat of butter to spin in the middle of the pan and slowly melt. The idea is to temper the butter into the sauce, not melt it quickly. Try not to put the pan down or force the butter to melt. Let the sauce ‘make itself’ and remember patience is important. It should take about a minute for the butter to melt. Keep the sauce away from heat, which will clarify the butter and break your sauce. Pour on or around your dish and enjoy.

Things to note,

- You can save your reduction in an airtight container, at room temperature for a couple of weeks

- Margarine will not work; the vegetable oil will separate and ruin the sauce.

- Milk cannot replace cream, the fat content is not high enough and it will ruin your sauce

- The sauce will thicken as it stands, a splash of water or stock (just a teaspoon or so) will loosen in up before serving.

- Make sure your pan is clean, soap residue or oils will float to the top and ruin your sauce.

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    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

      Cannot go wrong with those great ingredients. Sounds devine..

    • charlesspock profile image
      Author

      charlesspock 5 years ago from Vermont

      The flavors in a red wine reduction are pretty intense, and adding salt should not be necessary.

    • profile image

      LucyKoo 5 years ago

      Hi, I have never made any sauces using red wine before, but am wanting to make one soon!

      Can you add salt to reductions or is this different to red wine jus?

    • charlesspock profile image
      Author

      charlesspock 5 years ago from Vermont

      The reduction will be a bit bitter, but should not be extremely so. Adding butter and cream will smooth out the bitterness. If you are having issues with a reduction that is so bitter it is not serve-able then i recommend choosing either a different wine or reducing over a lower heat.

    • profile image

      Justin 5 years ago

      I keep getting a reduction that's extremely bitter.. does that sweeten out when adding the cream?

    • profile image

      amnestylina 5 years ago

      Thanks Charles GREAT recipe and stock ideas. I would like to perfect red wine smooth tasting sauce for pork or beef and a nice white wine sauce that works for poultry and anything you can suggest to put with it. I will make them immediately. What do you think of stock freezing in ice cube trays? What about red wine sauce...would it deteriorate? How would I store it and how long before I need to use it? how do I reconstitute it without losing flavour colour and texture?

    • charlesspock profile image
      Author

      charlesspock 5 years ago from Vermont

      I use a local heavy cream in my sauce, and it works perfectly. I like how it gives the sauce a silky texture but doesn't overpower the sharp wine flavors.

    • amnestylina profile image

      amnestylina 5 years ago

      what type cream are you referring to? I use high butter-fat cream in many recipes but for red sauce what is the general concensus for the best results?

    • amnestylina profile image

      amnestylina 5 years ago

      what type cream are you referring to? I use high butter-fat cream in many recipes but for red sauce what is the general concensus for the best results?

    • profile image

      Harry cuales @hilton doha 5 years ago

      I have now idea how to make red wine sauce.....

      thanks for sharing this!

    • carolinemoon profile image

      carolinemoon 6 years ago

      Good recipes, thanks for sharing this.

    • charlesspock profile image
      Author

      charlesspock 6 years ago from Vermont

      A pinot noir would work just fine for a reduction

    • eventsyoudesign profile image

      eventsyoudesign 6 years ago from Nashville, Tennessee

      Would a pinot noir not work for a red wine reduction? I have never made one, but I think it would be fun. Teresa

    • charlesspock profile image
      Author

      charlesspock 6 years ago from Vermont

      Thanks!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

      Very nice first hub! Thanks for sharing the recipe, methods, and tips.