How to master white wine sauces

What’s the easiest way to find the perfect wine to pair with dinner? Choose whatever you’re cooking with!

Seriously though, try to find it in your heart to donate a glass of wine to your saucepan. We don’t think you’ll regret the decision because frankly, there’s no easier way to enhance a sauce.

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Today we’re focusing on white wine sauces. Even if you’ve never made one, there’s no need to worry – you don’t need to be Eric Ripert to get down on a basic wine sauce. All it takes is a few ingredients and one pan. Use whatever white wine you’re drinking – Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis, Sancerre – basically any dry white will work.

Basic white wine sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 small/medium finely chopped onion
  • 1-2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine

How to make it

Heat some olive oil in a saute pan. Add the onions and cook for 2-3 minutes until fragrant and slightly translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the wine, broth, and vinegar. Cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes or until it reduces by about half.

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POPSUGAR Photography / Erin Cullum

Told you it was easy. Now let’s check out some variations on this basic sauce.

How to make it your own

Want a little more flavor, texture, or body in your sauce? You can twist it up the base sauce in all sorts of ways just by adding some spices, cream, butter, or different aromatics.

Some suggestions:

  • Use a shallot instead of an onion for a bolder, spicier flavor.
  • Add a pat of butter (off heat) at the end to thicken it up.
  • Add cream to thicken it up and add some volume.
  • Include some celery alongside the onions to heighten the aromatics.
  • Add some lemon zest and a few squirts of lemon juice.
  • Add chopped capers, a pinch of thyme, or a dash of chives to the finished sauce.

Next level sauce mastery: Beurre Blanc

Beurre blanc is a gastronomic delight, thanks in part to the whole stick of butter required to make it. If you’re on a diet, don’t even read this part. Just skip along and stick with the basic sauce or you’ll never be able to report any positive gains to your Beach Body coach.

Think of it like a fancy gravy for fish. It’s basically a Velouté (one of August Escoffier’s five “mother sauces“) with some white wine and cream. Rich, decadent, and silky smooth, yet with an acidic edge from the vinegar and wine. Making this guarantees your spouse will be shouting “Mon dieu!” with every joyous bite.

Ingredients

  • 1 shallot (finely chopped)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 12 tbsp chilled unsalted butter, cubed
  • Salt and White Pepper

Recipe via Alton Brown

How to make it

Combine the shallots, bay leaf, white wine, vinegar, and lemon juice. Add a little salt and pepper. Heat on high and reduce to about two tablespoons. Add the cream, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to low. Once the cream reduces by about half turn up the heat again and start adding the butter, one cube at a time, whisking to incorporate it. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Serve this to your family and friends, and sound like a total boss when you tell them it’s a pan-fried sole with a beurre blanc sauce.

White wine sauces work great with just about any kind of white fish. Photo via Flickr
White wine sauces work great with just about any kind of white fish. Photo via Flickr

10 delicious recipes to try

Need more inspiration, some added culinary context to these sauces? We scoured the interwebs for some of the tastiest sounding recipes. They’re all easy to make and sure to impress your family and guests.

Everyone should have a basic white wine sauce in their kitchen repertoire. Not only does it give you a great excuse to open another bottle but the intoxicating aromas coming out of your kitchen will ensure everyone makes it to the dining room on time to experience your heroic cooking endeavors.

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Mike Meisner

Mike is the resident content creator for the Last Bottle blog. When he's not spilling wine on his keyboard he can be found wandering the aisles in the warehouse with a Coravin in hand, whispering to bottles "This will only hurt for a second".