If you’ve ever gone wine tasting you probably know that, while delicious, wine is also profoundly complex. Each varietal brings with it a different sensory experience from color to aroma to taste. Sometimes just knowing whether to select white or red wine to pair with a particular meal can feel like a daunting task. So if you ever feel a little out of your element when it comes to cooking with wine, you’re not alone. But you can certainly learn how. In fact, a little wine can help concentrate the flavors of a dish, whether sweet, acidic, earthy, or robust—and turn a good meal into an outstanding one. Here’s how to go beyond the glass and cook with wine like a pro.
What Is Cooking Wine?
The term “cooking wine” is a little confusing. Certain wines (sherry, Marsala, and rice wine) are made especially for cooking, but the truth is, many of them are not as high-quality as wines you drink. (You may even find them sitting beside the vinegar at your local supermarket.) If a recipe requires a splash of wine and doesn’t specify a type of cooking wine, it’s usually best to use the stuff you drink to enhance the quality of your dish. You can shop our full selection of clean wines here.
Best White Wines for Cooking
From buttery Chardonnay to sweet Riesling, there are many white wine varietals to choose from. So which white works best when it comes to cooking? White wine has fewer tannins than red, which means it can reduce more without imparting bitterness in whatever you’re making. This makes white wine a great acidic counterpart to butter- or cream-based sauces in particular. For the ideal flavor balance, you’ll want to select something crisp and fruity like Sauvignon Blanc or a dry wine like Pinot Grigio or Sancerre.
Best Red Wines for Cooking
Unlike white wine, red wine is far more tannic, which means it can become bitter if reduced significantly. So to maintain richness of flavor in your dish, with red wine, it’s best to not reduce more than 50 percent of the liquid. The best reds to choose for cooking are those with relatively low tannins—try Merlot, Pinot Noir, or Chianti.
Tips for Cooking With Wine
The most important rule of cooking with wine is pretty straightforward—don’t cook with wine you wouldn’t otherwise drink. Think about it this way: You wouldn't choose low-quality ingredients for your recipe, and wine is no exception. Here are a few more helpful wine cooking hacks:
- Don’t use old or stale wine. Once again, if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it. In other words, cooking is not a way to make use of that week-old lingering bottle of half-drunk red. If, on the other hand, you have leftover wine that hasn’t gone bad, try this genius trick.
- Pass the meat. Want to tenderize a cut of beef? Try marinating it in red wine before hitting the grill (try a Malbec). The tannins help break down the meat’s toughness.
- Portion control matters. Don’t overdo the “splash of wine” your recipe calls for. Instead, aim for about 2 tablespoons of wine per cup of broth or gravy and 1 tablespoon per cup of sauce.
7 Recipes With Wine
These must-try recipes up the flavor factor with a splash of vino.
Craving comfort food? Give this warming classic a brand new spin with bacon, white wine, and herb-rich pesto.
This keto-friendly date night recipe tops tender pork chops with a high-fat sauce of heavy cream, mushrooms, chicken bone broth, and dry white wine.
This dish is downright luscious and marries flavor-rich ribeye steak with a red wine–laced, slightly sweet cherry sauce.
This ruby-red spaghetti gets its name from the entire bottle of red wine that goes in the sauce (yep, the whole thing) along with garlic, red pepper, and mounds of pecorino cheese.
Wine with chocolate is always a delicious pairing, but wine in chocolate might be even better. Turns out that adding a splash of red to your favorite boxed brownie mix is one of the best-kept kitchen secrets.
Keep calm and sip on with our relaxing recipe that adds red wine to stress-relieving reishi mushroom hot cacao mix.
Chia sangria? No way, rosé! Just add dragon fruit, ginger beer, and Mamma Chia Cherry Beet Squeeze to sparkling wine for a refreshingly different drink.