What is The Best Red Wine for Cooking?

With so many varieties of red wine, it can be challenging to know what is the best red wine for cooking. Often, recipes will call for good quality wine but seldom tell you exactly what type of wine to use. As a beginner wine drinker myself, I know I have been at the grocery store, confused about what bottle of wine to purchase.

Before we get into the types of wines, it's important to understand what types of cooking and recipes typically call for red wine.

How To Use Wine in Recipes

beef dish best red wine for cooking

Red wine can be used to tenderize meat and act as a marinade. Red wine's acidity helps to break down the tougher cuts of meat through braising. Braising is the process of cooking a tough cut of meat slowly in a pot with liquid. Beef bourguignon aka beef Burgundy is one of the most classic French ways of cooking beef. Beef bourguignon is essentially a beef stew made with red wine, beef stock, mushrooms, and bacon.

Red wine makes a great pan sauce. A pan sauce is exactly what it sounds like— a sauce made in the same pan where the protein was cooked. A red wine pan sauce is typically served with red meat, such as steak au poivre. Red wine can also be used in Italian cooking to enhance the flavor of a basic tomato sauce. The red wine will add some tang and depth of flavor to the sauce.

When wine cooks, the alcohol evaporates, leaving behind the wine's aromas. The aromas are what give flavor to the dish, which is why it's important to cook out the alcohol fully.

The Best Red Wines for Cooking

wine being poured into beef dish

1. Cabernet Sauvignon

This is one of the best kinds of wines for braising and making pan sauces. The full-bodied flavor makes this a great wine to pair with several kinds of dishes. This is also one of the most popular wines in the country, making it easy to find at most wine shops.

Cabernet is made from single varietals, meaning it uses only Cabernet grapes. Cabernet also blends well with oak and is typically fermented in oak barrels. Cabernet is known for its high tannins and high acidity.

Our pick for Cabernet Sauvignon is Yellowtail Cabernet .

2. Pinot Noir

This wine is known as a light wine because it does not overpower other flavors. Pinot noir is commonly produced in Sonoma, California, as well as Oregon, Australia, and South Africa.

Wine connoisseurs would describe pinot noir as having fruity flavors like raspberry. The low tannins make this a great wine to pair with meat, fish, and vegetables. It's incredibly versatile as it can be served at room temperature or chilled.

Our pick for Pinot Noir is Meiomi Pinot Noir.

3. Merlot

Merlot is known for its low tannin and fruit-forward flavor. The accessibility of this wine means you'll be able to find a bottle in any price range.

A good rule of thumb is if the recipe asks for a dry red wine, any Merlot will fit the bill. Merlot has a shelf life of 3-5 years.

Our pick for Merlot is Josh Cellars Merlot.

4. Shiraz

Shiraz pairs beautifully with red meat and lamb due to its peppery taste and moderate tannins.

This wine is referred to as Syrah when produced in cooler climates and Shiraz when produced in warmer climates.

Our pick for Shiraz is Layer Cake Shiraz.

Fortified Wines

Fortified wines like sherry and marsala make great cooking wines. These wines have a higher alcohol content than drinking wines. They usually have more of a nutty flavor profile than their drinking counterparts.

Make sure to use these wines just in your cooking process and not to drink on their own.

Best White Wines

Sometimes a recipe will call for white wine. You'll want to use a dry white wine, so the sugars don't overpower the food or make a savory dish sweet. Our favorite white wines for cooking include chardonnay and sauvignon blanc.

READ: These Are the Best Things to Use as a Substitute for White Cooking Wine