Cooking with Wine - Recipes

If you're cooking with wine, often the recipe will call for a full bodied red, or a port. What are these various types of wine, so that your meal comes out as delicious as possible?

First, NEVER use a "cooking wine", i.e. the ones sold in a grocery store labelled as a cooking wine. These are made from really bad wine that has a lot of salt added to it. They do this to keep alcoholics and children from drinking it. Believe me, anything that is awful to drink will concentrate in your food to turn it into an awful-tasting dish. Only cook with a wine you will enjoy drinking. Otherwise the bad wine flavors will coalesce during the cooking process and your entire meal will taste like that.

OK, so you're ready to stop by the wine shop and pick up the necessary ingredient. The first category of wine used in cooking is port, marsala or madiera. These are all fortified wines, meaning they have brandy added to them and tend to be thick and sweet. These are usually used for rich sauces. While you MIGHT substitute one of these for the other, they all have quite different flavors so it'd be like substituting an apple for a pear, flavor-wise. The texture might be fine but the flavor will be different. read more about port.

The next category is red wine. Red wine is also typically used in sauces, but more to give flavor and color vs adding texture. It is REALLY important with red wine that you use a relatively good (or at least not awful / vinegarred) red wine for cooking, otherwise the dish tastes like pickles. If the recipe calls for a particular type of red wine (merlot, pinot noir, etc), use what it asks for. If it asks for ANY red wine, use your favorite. After all, the point of this dish is that you enjoy eating it. If the recipe asks for a TYPE of red wine, go with:
light bodied: pinot noir, merlot
full bodied: cabernet, chianti

Finally, white wine. White wine tends to give the least flavor to a dish and therefore is the least picky about what you choose. Usually white wine goes into a dish such as "chicken in white wine sauce" where really the sauce is made with creams and the white wine adds just a hint of flavor. Again, use a white wine you enjoy. That wine's flavor will be featured in your meal.
light bodied: pinot grigio
full bodied: Californian Chardonnay

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All content on the WineIntro website is personally written by author and wine enthusiast Lisa Shea. WineIntro explores the delicious variety and beautiful history which makes up our world of wine! Lisa loves supporting local wineries and encouraging people to drink whatever they like. We all have different taste buds, and that makes our world wonderful. Always drink responsibly.