The best white wine for cooking is Pinot Grigio, and the best red wine for cooking is Chianti. Pinot Grigio is a dry white wine with mild flavours of lemon, lime, apple, pear and minerals. It’s often inexpensive, and the added flavours will not overwhelm your dish. Meanwhile, Chianti is a fruity and earthy red wine with flavours of cherry, herbs, spices and earth making it perfect for pasta sauces that require a splash of red wine.

What are the best white wines to cook with?

Pinot Grigio is the best white wine to cook with as it is inexpensive, enjoyable on its own, and easy to find on the shelves wherever you buy wine. Pinot Grigio will impart flavours of citrus, lemon, minerals, pear and apples in your dish. I’d also argue that Pinot Grigio is the best wine to steam Muscles.

If you want to add even more citrus flavours and perhaps some herbal notes to your dish, Sauvignon Blanc also makes for an excellent cooking white wine. Sauvignon Blanc is bright with acidity and will impart amazing flavours of citrus, grapefruit, green herbs and smoke to your dish. This would make Sauvignon Blanc exceptional with a herbal lemon sauce for chicken.

Most white wines are suitable for cooking, however, I would stay away from white wines that have seen oak, such as an oaked Chardonnay. The oaked flavours may come across as bitter. Oak also makes wines also may add flavours of butter, vanilla and toast. Butter goes well with most dishes you are cooking, however I’d argue you wouldn’t want the taste of vanilla or toast with cleaner seafood dishes, such as mussels, scallops and calamari tossed in a wine sauce with fresh pasta.

You also want to stick to dry white wines as sweet wines, such as a Riesling, will add extra sweetness to whatever you are cooking. Sweet wines, of course, will be excellent when you require a cooking wine for a dessert.

What are the best red wines to cook with?

For Italian fare, Chianti is the best red wine to cook with as it has enough acidity and fruitiness to complement any tomato sauce. Furthermore, Chianti has herbal, earthy, meaty and smoky flavours that will make your dish taste even better.

The best red wine for braising beef or BBQ fare, such as ribs or brisket, is either a Côtes du Rhône or an inexpensive Cabernet-Shiraz blend. Shiraz has amazing black pepper notes that meld perfectly with beef and pork. Meanwhile, the Cabernet grapes will impart juicy flavours of blackberries that will add an extra bit of body to every bite of beef. If you can’t find a Cabernet-Shiraz blend, try an inexpensive Shiraz, as Shiraz pairs well with beef, ribs and lamb.

Côtes du Rhône is my favourite red wine to cook with.  I often don’t recommend it for cooking to those new to wine as it is a blended red wine from France, and people new to wine, often find French wines confusing.  With Côtes du Rhône, expect a fruity, earthy and dry red wine that is not too high in tannin.  Côtes du Rhône is my favourite red wine to use when braising beef.

Most red wines are suitable for cooking, and while many people say you should cook with what you drink, and I can’t entirely agree! If the red wine is expensive, as expensive red wines are often oak aged. Oaked wines that are loaded with tannin are going to create a bitter aftertaste within your dish.

Expensive red wines are also noted for their subtle nuances of flavour. For example, good Pinot Noir (which is expensive) will have fleeting flavours of truffle, forest floor and barnyard that will drive your taste buds wild. When cooking with Pinot Noir or Burgundy, these subtle flavours will be lost at sea, never to emerge.

Should I Use Cooking Wine to Cook With?

So many ‘wine authorities’ argue against not purchasing cooking wine as they consider it low-quality wine and feel like it will ‘hurt’ your dish. In my opinion, it’s absolutely fine to cook with cooking wine.

While cooking wine is awful to drink (it’s often loaded up with sugar and/or salt to make it shelf stable), it will certainly do its intended job when it comes cooking. In fact, every high-end restaurant I’ve worked at often uses cooking wine for many dishes to help control costs. And I can assure you, nobody ever complained that their meal had contained cooking wine.

Another reason restaurants might choose to use cooking wine is to deter the staff from drinking it as cooking wine has no to very little alcohol content. Side-Note you can often order cooking wine from wineries that do contain alcohol but are  heavily salted to prevent people from drinking it.

Cooking wine also makes sense if you don’t drink wine or alcohol. Using it will still make your dish taste great, and nobody will ever notice the difference, as it certainly won’t ruin your dish.