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12 Best Red Wines for Cooking Any Meal (2023 Updated)

Last Updated on January 24, 2023 by Lydia Martin

While wine is a great pair for your favorite dishes, it’s also an excellent ingredient for cooking. 

Some recipe calls for wine in the cooking process, whether for deglazing your pan, tenderizing meat, or adding flavor when making sauces.

But what is the best red wine for cooking? 

We’ve tried different wines and made a list of the best wine bottles that are not just delicious but can add other flavors to many recipes. Read on.

Top 12 Red Wines To Use For Cooking 

12. Beaujolais

Beaujolais Bottle, Glass and Grapes

Crafted from Gamay grapes of the Burgundy region, Beaujolais is a medium-bodied, fancy wine for cooking. 

How To Use: Deglazing pan and braising meat 

Dishes Best Paired With: Mushrooms and rich meats 

Tips: 

  • Add this red wine into your pan sauce when it’s almost ready to impart flavor and reduce the alcohol. 

11. Nebbiolo

Gigi Rosso Wine Langhe Nebbiolo Bottle and a Glass

You don’t want to use full-bodied reds packed with acidity and high tannins. So try Nebbiolo– a cooking wine, medium-bodied, with moderate tannins and black pepper notes. 

How To Use: Braising and cooking beef and red meats

Dishes Best Paired With: Beef Roast and any meaty pasta sauce or dish 

Tips:

  • Use Nebbiolo for preparing meaty dishes.
  • Add Nebbiolo to fatty dishes to reduce their tannin levels.

10. Bordeaux

Close Up Shot of Bottle Château Lanessan

If you don’t have Cabernet or Merlot, a good substitute for red wine is Bourdeaux. We recommend adding it to a beef stew, but you can also use it in many recipes. 

How To Use: For simmering, marinating, and boiling meat and fish

Dishes Best Paired With: Beef-based recipes, Roasted Lamb, Fish Recipes, Duck Breast, and Venison

Tips: 

  • Immerse meat or fish in your saucepan with boiling Bordeaux to get the wine notes and enhance the dish’s flavor.
  • Add the wine while you simmer the fish to reduce the fishy taste. 

9. Carmenere

Carmen, Grand Reserva Carmenere 2011 Bottle and a Glasses

If you want something unusual, try Carmenere. It has a lot of flavors with cocoa, blackberry, and pepper—perfect for light to heavy food, like Mexican dishes, for example. 

How To Use: For cooking heavy and light recipes and as a bbq marinate  

Dishes Best Paired With: Pork Tacos, Empanadas, Tuna Steak, Grilled Chicken, Lamb with Mushrooms 

Tips:

  • Use Carmenere to marinate the meat overnight before cooking or grilling. 
  • If you want to cook empanadas, make sure to add the wine along with the meat first to cook before you add it to the wrap. 

8. Cabernet Sauvignon

Bottle of Josh Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon makes for the best dry red wine. It is the most popular among the different grapes for making wine and is widely available in every wine shop.  

This dry red wine pairs well with a lot of recipes due to its low sugar content and fruity flavors– truly a good red wine for cooking.

How To Use: For deglazing the pan and cooking beef stew 

Dishes Best Paired With: Meaty stews and Pan Sauces  

Tips:

  • If you want to cook lamb, stew, or beef, best opt for Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Add this wine while frying the meat before simmering it. 

7. Chianti

2 Bottles of Chianti Wine and a Woman Holding Glass

This red wine is perfect for lighter dishes, like vegetable-based food and sauces. If you want a good cooking wine to add to your tomato sauce, opt for Chianti. 

How To Use: For adding flavors to light recipes 

Dishes Best Paired With: Pasta and sauce recipes, vegetable dishes, steak and mushrooms  

Tips:

  • Don’t use Chianti on heavy dishes like hearty and meaty stews.
  • You can use red wine vinegar or lemon juice as a substitute for Chianti. 

6. Pinot Noir

hand holding Craggy Range Pinot Noir Bottle

It’s a common misconception that red wines [1] are only used for cooking any heavy dish. Did you know that there are lighter wines you can use to cook lighter dishes? 

Instead of white wine, try Pinot Noir dry red wines. If you don’t want too strong flavors, use Pinot Noir to tend the meat, make hot pan stew, or any hearty dishes.  

How To Use: For cooking a meaty stew 

Dishes Best Paired With: Beef Stew, Bone-in Short Rib, and Bottom Sirloin 

Tips:

  • You can use Pinot Noir red wines for cooking seafood dishes.
  • Use Pinot Noir for dishes requiring a lot of wine. It helps softens the meat while it doesn’t add overwhelming flavors. 

5. Merlot

Bottle of Eagles' Nest Merlot

Crafted from Merlot grapes, Merlot red wines are low in tannins and can easily be found in grocery stores or any liquor store. 

One of the dry wines, along with Cabernet and Pinot Noir, Merlot is also a smooth wine that you can use for cooking– best for reductions and pan sauces. 

How To Use: For cooking duck, chicken, pork, vegetable, or pan sauce 

Dishes Best Paired With: Roast dishes, Cheddar Cheese, pasta dishes, braised dishes, and berries and fruit 

Tips:

  • Use Merlot with other ingredients like spices and broth, then simmer in low heat. It creates a more tasty flavor to the dish. 
  • When reduced, you can have a delicious thick sauce, great for meat dishes.  

4. Zinfandel

Predator Oldvine Zinfandel Bottle

Zinfandel [2] isn’t just for drinking wine; it’s also an excellent ingredient for cooking. 

This fruity red wine is sweet with interesting, robust red and spicy flavors that pair well with burgers, curries, and meats.   

How To Use: For cooking light dishes to enhance the flavors 

Dishes Best Paired With: Burgers, pizzas, ribs, curries, roasted meats, and meatloaf

Tips:

  • Do not use Zinfandel red wines when cooking lighter foods like chicken, particularly fish with lighter proteins. It tends to overpower other flavors in lighter foods. 
  • Use it on bold-flavored food, like red meats.
  • You can use Zinfandel for deglazing, to make quick pan sauces (based on tomato sauce), or for marinades.    

3. Shiraz

Bottle of 018 Penfolds St Henri Shiraz

Shiraz [3] is best for cooking meat, specifically lamb. It’s a full-bodied wine with a fruit-forward flavor yet slightly spicy and peppery.  

How To Use: For pan-frying and braising meat and making any thick sauce 

Dishes Best Paired With: Lamb dishes, pan-fried duck breast, cassoulet, Mexican dishes like chipotle chili, and grilled sausage 

Tips:

  • Add Shiraz while cooking in a skillet, oven, or slow cooker to add moisture.
  • You can simmer it with the food you’re cooking to add flavors. 

2. Red Blend

Bottle of Apothic Red

Red Blend features a variety of grape types, and it’s cheaper than other reds. It’s a budget-friendly, all-purpose wine with all the notes of the grapes varieties combined. 

Opt for a solid Red Blend for cooking, but don’t forget to take a sip first before adding it to your pan. 

How To Use: For deglazing your pan, tenderizing meat, and making sauces 

Dishes Best Paired With: Meaty dishes, pizzas, pasta with red sauces, juicy burgers, and hearty stews

Tips:

  • Don’t add Red Blend into the dish before serving it, or you want your food to taste vino.
  • Make sure to cook the wine along with the food for better results. 

1. Tempranillo

Campo Viejo Rioja Wine Tempranillo 2016

The best cooking red wine is Tempranillo; you get to taste what Spain has to offer, and you can use it on a light to a heavy recipe. 

This is the best red wine for cooking due to the pleasant flavor profiles–suitable for drinking wine and cooking food. 

“If you cook with bad wine, you get bad food.”

— Stefano de Pieri, Vittoria Coffee Legend/Author

How To Use: For cooking light and heavy dishes, marinating, caramelizing, frying, and simmering

Dishes Best Paired With: Mexican food, Smoky dishes, Lasagna, Pizzas, and any corn-based recipe

Tips:

  • If your recipe requires a solid red wine, use Tempranillo from Toro or Ribera Del Duero for its bold, rich notes.
  • If your recipe requires a lighter wine, use Tempranillo from Rioja for its fruity and subtle notes.  

How Do You Use Red Wine for Cooking?

You can use red wine for the dishes you’re preparing, whether you want something to deglaze your pan, tenderize and moisturize meat, or reduce the fat levels of meat. 

Are White Wine & Red Wine Interchangeable? 

White wine and red wine can be interchangeable, depending on the recipe. However, red wine can impart richer flavors than white. 

Besides, red wine, particularly dry reds, is recommended for making heavy dishes, glazes, and marinades. 

Cooking With Red Wine: Tips & Bits 

Don’t Substitute Cooking Wine With Regular Wine

If you want your food to taste excellently delicious, use regular wines instead of bottles labeled as “cooking wine.”

It can be packed with preservatives that can change the flavor of your dishes, unlike how regular wines can provide pleasant acidity and notes.  

Cook It Low & Slow

When cooking with wine, make sure it’s in low heat [4]. Cooking with high heat results in a sour, tangy taste. 

A wine that’s cooked in an ideal heat along with the food creates mouthwatering flavors, enhancing the spices of your final dish.  

Use Cheaper Wines

As much as possible, opt for cheaper wines for cooking. Fancy wines are for sipping. Don’t waste the quality of premium wines just to add to your cooking.  

Only Cook With Red Wines You Love

Of course, opt for the best red wine you’re totally drinking. If you find it delicious in a glass, it would also taste great in food. 

Using Old Wine Isn’t Recommended

If you opened a bottle of wine within the last week, it may have started oxidizing, and its flavor may have changed. 

However, it’s not always unsafe to drink old wine if you have a desperate need.

FAQs 

Can you use any red wine for cooking?

Yes, you can use any red wine for cooking. But dry reds are highly recommended, especially for tenderizing meat and deglazing the pan. 

What is the best red wine to use in beef stew?

The best red wine for beef stew is Cabernet Sauvignon. Its high tannins bring out all the beef’s flavors. 

Does it matter what wine you use for cooking?

Yes, it matters what kind of wine you’re using, especially if the dish you’re cooking requires a specific type of red wine. 

Can you use regular red wine instead of red cooking wine?

Yes, you can use regular wine rather than cooking wine. Regular wine can offer the best seasoning than those labeled as “cooking wine” due to its preservatives.  

Is the red wine for cooking the same for drinking?

Red wine for cooking isn’t always the same for drinking. Some wines are just best for cooking, while some are best for both. 

How does red wine affect cooking?

Red wine affects cooking due to its acidity levels that help to tenderize tougher meat cuts. Also, it can spice up the dishes, coming from its flavor profile.  

Which red wine is best in a meat sauce?

The best red wine in a meat sauce is Merlot. It’s a versatile wine that can go well with vegetables, meat, sauces, and more. 

Key Takeaways 

Regardless of your preference for wine, there are many uses for it in the kitchen. 

Whether you want lighter wine to add flavor to your dishes or heavier wines to enhance stews, you can surely find the best red wine for cooking in this list.

But remember – some recipes call for a specific type of wine.

So make sure to check the ingredients first, look at what you have, and choose the right type of wine to finish your dish.    

References:

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/red-wines 
  2. https://fps.ucdavis.edu/grapebook/winebook.cfm?chap=Zinfandel 
  3. https://www.scmp.com/magazines/style/news-trends/article/3007305/shiraz-syrah-did-famous-red-wine-grape-originate 
  4. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/uk/food/a576281/cooking-with-wine-tips/ 

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