Beer & Wine Wine

Dry Red Wine for Cooking: What to Know and 5 Bottles to Try

Quality matters when cooking with wine too.

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Red wine bottles / Laura Sant

Wine and cooking go hand in hand and quite frequently. The former finds itself in the latter, which is to say that cooking with wine is a common practice. Although many wine drinkers know what they like to sip along with their meal, when it comes to choosing a bottle for a recipe that calls for a dry red wine, some guidance can be helpful. 

When it comes to choosing a wine to cook with, the parameters to consider are pretty simple: the wine’s fruitiness and acidity level, both of which will affect the flavor of the dish you’re making; the wine’s price point; and its drinkability on its own. 

Where Does the Best Red Wine for Cooking Come From?

The short answer is: everywhere. When it comes to seeking out red wine for cooking, there’s no specific region that’s particularly better than another. However, in terms of grape varieties and final wines, it’s best to stick to high-acid varieties and cuvées, such as sangiovese or pinot noir, says Mariette Bolitiski, a wine pro and Le Cordon Bleu graduate who has worked as a sommelier and wine director in several top New York City restaurants.

How Much Money Should I Spend on My Red Cooking Wine?

Cooking with something of decent quality is essential, though that doesn’t have to translate to expensive. “Cheap swill does not get better with cooking,” says Bolitiski, noting that sticking within the $12 to -$15 range is generally fine. 

What’s the Difference Between Grocery Store Cooking Wine and Wine from a Wine Shop or Wine Section?

Simply put, most of the “cooking wine” found in grocery stores actually isn’t wine! Most grocery stores in the United States are not legally allowed to sell wine on their shelves, so the makeshift wines labeled as the “cooking” variety are essentially imposters (and generally taste like straight-up vinegar on their own). 

Can I Drink My Red Cooking Wine?

Absolutely, and you should. “If you wouldn’t drink a glass of your cooking wine—and you should definitely pour yourself a glass before it all goes into the pan—then you shouldn’t be cooking with it,” says Bolitiski. Cooking concentrates the wine’s flavors, so if you start out with a subpar bottle, its undesirable flavors will only become more so during the cooking process. Always use a bottle you’d actually drink, not least because, with rare exceptions, you’ll generally have enough of the bottle left over to enjoy a couple of glasses with dinner. 

These are five bottles that will be as great in your saucepan as in your glass.

Bouchard Père & Fils Bourgogne Pinot Noir

Bouchard Père & Fils Bourgogne Pinot Noir / Laura Sant

Finding affordable red Burgundy that doesn’t taste like total swill can be a challenge. This widely available pinot noir is great for chilly nights when savory French-inspired stews are on the menu.

Primarius Pinot Noir

Primarius Pinot Noir / Laura Sant

Primarius offers a great quality-to-price ratio when it comes to West Coast pinot noir. From Bolognese sauce to boeuf bourguignon and everything in-between, this versatile wine has your back.

San Felice Chianti Classico

San Felice Chianti Classico / Laura Sant

Produced in the heart of Tuscany, this acid-driven red is loaded with flavors of cherries, tomato leaf and earth. We can’t think of a better Sunday supper cooking wine than this bottle.

Tenuta Castiglioni Chianti

Tenuta Castiglioni Chianti / Laura Sant

This restrained easy-drinking Chianti is great for sipping before, during and after the cooking process. Whether you’re making Italian-inspired red sauces or coq au vin, there’s no culturally dividing factor with this bottle. 

Viña Zorzal Garnacha

Viña Zorzal Garnacha / Laura Sant

For a fruit-forward, acid-driven red pick, look to quality Spanish garnachas like this expression. Produced from organically farmed fruit, this varietal garnacha jumps with flavors of red cherries, cranberries and licorice. Use it in a red wine reduction sauce and pour some to sip solo, as well.

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