As enjoyable as wine is on its own, it is also very often used while cooking, either to marinate meats or enhance sauce flavors. You are all set if you are a hardcore oenophile. However, if you are not a wine drinker, we are right here to assist you through everything you need to know.
As white wines have considerably low levels of tannin, it is much easier to cook with them. Red wine is where the real help is needed as their tannin levels can make them bitter when reduced too much. However, red wines when used correctly can elevate the taste of your dish to another level. So let’s look at this guide some types of red wines and try to determine the best red wine for cooking.
Some recipes require sweet, subtle, and fresh wines, whereas others call for dry red wines. The correct choice will depend on the cooking technique involved in making the dish. The elementary thing to keep in mind is that the wine’s flavor will intensify after reduction. Therefore, it is essential that you go for a good quality wine that won’t spoil but enhance your food.
Best Varietals Of Red Wines For Cooking
Red wines are best for the savory side of the menu, whereas white wines are good for the lighter dishes. It is important to remember that the full-bodied reds like Shiraz, syrah, and zinfandel have big tannins that turn chalky when cooked. Moderate tannins in the old world reds prove to be a bit friendlier. However, when talking about the wine varieties, the following will be your best bets while cooking.
1. Cabernet Sauvignon
This is a popular full-bodied wine that can be the perfect choice to braise proteins such as ribs. When you braise, the meat softens during the cooking process, enriching the flavors of the other ingredients. When cabernet is used, you can also use the braising liquid as a glaze. The lack of sugar in the cabernet prevents it from caramelizing under heat when deglazing.
2. Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir is fit for meaty stews because of its lighter profile. This lightness of the wine helps to tenderize the meat while cooking. It also goes well with the fatty flavors. You will need to use some cups of red in this method, but it’s not too bold so it won’t overpower your dish. This is why pinot noir is the go-to varietal for cooking for a lot of people.
This silky red wine has low tannins and is very fruit-forward in nature. Like pinot noir and cabernet, merlot, too, works well with proteins. It can be used for a reduction or a pan sauce. In this method, the red wine is heated in a saute pan on low heat with a handful of other seasoning ingredients until it simmers. When the wine thickens, the flavors get bolder and more concentrated, producing a rich sauce by the end.
We have put together this list to ease your selection process and help you settle on the best red wine for cooking.
Top 10 Best Red Wines For Cooking 2021
Caymus wines have a characteristic flavor and aroma achieved from letting the grapes “hang” for an unusually long time on the vine to let the tannins mature, the color increase and the suppleness develop enough. This makes the wines soft as velvet yet abundant in textural tannins. Some more parts of their viticultural practices are crop thinning and letting measured sunlight reach the fruit zone of the vine.
This wine has a blackberry hue with a nose of cooked caramel, rich leather, forest floor, and berries. It is supple, appealing, and rich in concentrations of vanilla, chocolate, and blackberries. Abundant yet fine tannins persist throughout layers of textural sensation.
The fine dust of Napa Valley soils lends this wine its distinctive richness. The finish has impressions of fruits and oaky French barrels. The notable suppleness helps to square off the rich tannic levels of this extremely bold wine.
Keefer Ranch is situated in the Green Valley, characterized by a distinct marine influence and cool conditions. Kosta Browne collaborated with the legendary Marcy Keefer and started working on this site in 2005.
The wine is aged in 42% new French and 2% new Austrian oak for 19 months. This 2017 Pinot Noir is colored pale to medium ruby with aromas of crushed cranberries and raspberries, tangerine peel, rosewater, woodsmoke with earth and bitter accents. The palate is flooding with perfumed red berry fruits. The wine is medium-bodied and has a long and spicy finish with a well-woven freshness and a frame of gently grainy tannins.
This elegant wine with lovely varietal flowers and tannins is a product of the exceptional growing season of 2014 in Napa Valley. It was aged for 18 months and is a blend of 86% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec, and 2% Petit Verdot.
This classic bottle by Three Palms Vineyard features delightful layered aromas of cream, dark red fruits, cedar, graphite, and notes of wet river rock. With an expansive mouthfeel, it is polished and pure on the palate. Rich flavors of red and black fruits supported by firm, structured tannins and subtle sweet oak. The finish is extended and dry. The structured tannins make this stunning Merlot an excellent fit for cooking and will age gracefully through the years.
This 2018 vintage collection is superior in quality. It is gorgeous and dense with ripe plum, blackberry, and boysenberry coating your palate. These fruits are complemented by milk chocolate, mocha, sandalwood, fresh tobacco, black licorice, and violet.
This effortless union of luscious fruit and volcanic minerality when combined with the velvety tannin produce an intriguing mouthfeel. It can be enjoyed with the maximum flavor after decanting for about an hour.
It has a nose of baking spices, dark fruits, vanilla, and chocolate with a bold and dry taste profile. The extended finish is smooth and slightly chocolaty. This blend of 83% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc taste best when paired with beef, veal, or lamb. Naturally, it is also probably the best red wine for cooking beef too.
Cabernet Sauvignon is Palmaz’s wine of focus because of the well-balanced tannins, depth, and complexity they have. Their wines age remarkably well but are equally enjoyable in their youth. The full-bodied wines have rich layers of spicy oak, dark fruit, ripe berries, and chocolate.
Their latest bottles- the 2017 vintage, are tight with intense flavors from the first sip itself, which then vigorously explode on your palate. Then flavors of ripe forest fruit and blackberries seep out and dominate the palate.
This subtle yet alluring beauty is a testament to the estate’s winemaking team. It contains pre-fire fruit only and features a unique initial restraint of flavor that deliberately reveals itself gradually. Bold and dry, it has a finish that is long and smooth. The wine’s blend of 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec, and 1% Petit Verdot is a sure-shot way of adding depth to your cellar.
2018 had idyllic weather throughout the year, a fine growing season for grapes. The Sonoma Coast appellation is influenced by the ocean, much like the Russian River Valley. As the site is located at the intersection of two tectonic plates. it makes the local geology a bit complex. This helps produce richer textured and deeply flavored wines.
The coastal vineyards contribute spicy and savory characteristics. The fruits from cooler sites like Balletto and Marshall that had long hang times developed rich, dark fruit profiles and excellent tannins. There is an added depth introduced along with a long spicy finish.
The nose has a rich, alluring scent of raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry with hints of fragrant earth, tea leaves, and dried flowers. The palate too is loaded with berries, the entry is bold and followed by a focus on the tension and solid structure.
Another delicacy by Kosta Browne, this wine too gets its mature flavors and developed phenolics from the extended hang time in the late-season fog. The exemplary site is marked by vineyards sweeping across a land of dramatic elevation and clonal variety. The Sonoma Coast program is famous for the viticultural standards of Gap’s Crown.
The 2017 Pinot Noir is their latest release that was aged in diverse vessels: 35% new French oak, 20% concrete, and 13% wooden tanks for 10-19 months. Known for its intensity, this wine opens with juicy and immediately pleasing layers of raspberry and blueberry jam. This is followed by layers of amaro and spices in a medium-bodied and ultra-silky profile.
The frame is gentle, grainy, refreshing, and finishes long and elegantly. This bold and beautiful wine has a medium ruby color and a nose of dried lilac, black tea leaves, wild blackberries, tree bark, and licorice. There are also subtle notes of potpourri, blood orange, crushed berry fruit, and saline.
The 2017 Austin Hope Reserve cabernet was made with an elaborate process to ensure the most exceptional quality. It was first separated into smaller lots in the vineyards for fermentation where daily pump-overs were done for maximum extraction. These areas were supervised constantly.
Regularly tested and analyzed for tannins to establish the perfect amount of extended maceration time required after they ferment. They were drained, pressed, and barreled. The lots were then mixed together in the winter of 2019 and barreled again in 75/% new French Oak. This is followed by a tasting and thorough quality check of individual barrels by the winemaking team. Only the best are combined together, aged for an additional 6 months in 100% new French oak, and bottled in the fall of 2019.
The wine is a captivating dark crimson color with warm aromas of roasted coffee, cocoa, burnt toffee, dried baking spices, and blueberries filling the glass. The palate features earthy tones, creamy vanilla, toasted cloves, and a hint of bright red fruit enclosed in a firm structure on layers of fine dusty tannins. This is an exceptional wine and definitely deserves to be your choice for the best red wine to cook with or enjoy on its own.
A blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, and 5% Petit Sirah, this 2014 Cabernet wine is powerful and opulent. With an opening nose of layered and overripe plum, blackberries, and cassis, it reveals notes of sage, tarragon, and fragrant California chaparral soon after.
The entry is lush and rich with juicy black cherries, stone fruit, and hints of clove, licorice, and graphite. The experience is slowed down for an elegant, long finish by the smooth, refined tannins.
The 2010 Cabernet by David Arthur is racy and beautifully balanced. With menthol, dark raspberries, and licorice, the tannins are firm yet well-integrated to provide good support. The nose has vibrant aromas of spice, pepper, dark berry, raspberry, and fresh earth.
The finish is gusty and requires some patience with its chewy tannins. The vibrancy, energy, and appeal are just irresistible when the wine matures. The recommended drinking time is between 2016 and 2030.
How To Use Wine For Cooking?
Wine is fundamentally used in cooking because of its acidity. It helps in retaining the moisture while breaking down cuts of meat by low and slow methods like braising. The wine also preserves the finer texture in lighter proteins like fish. When wine is used in cooking, the alcohol evaporates but leaves behind hints of its flavor and aroma in the finished dish.
Wine is also used in the preparation of some deserts like a red wine poached apple tarte Tatin. In such applications, a subtle, tangy high note is introduced into the sweetness of the dish while lending the fruit a brilliant purple wine stain. The extra complexity makes the desert an excellent option to complement the scoops of vanilla ice cream served alongside.
Why Is Wine Used In A Recipe?
Wine adds elements of aroma, flavor, and moisture to a dish. It is often used to incorporate flavor directly from the heat of the pan or marinate meats and vegetables. The bolder flavors and more tannic nature of red wine adds a slight and crisp acidity to the recipe.
Several varietals of wine add their characteristic flavor qualities and profiles to particular types of dishes. It is advisable to stick to the wine varietal the recipe calls for, but once you have got it right, do not hesitate to experiment.
Difference Between Regular Wine And Cooking Wine
The term “cooking wine” usually refers to the regular table wine which can be doubled up for cooking in addition to drinking on its own. But you could spot a bottle labeled “cooking wine” shelved among seasonings and vinegar in the grocery store.
These types of wines contain salt, maybe sugar, and some additional spices along with the basic alcohol. Do not drink this wine. A common example of the same is Shaoxing wine, which is a seasoned rice wine frequently used in Chinese dishes.
How To Choose The Best Wine For Cooking
Choosing a wine to cook with is not as difficult as it might sound. The basic and most popular rule is to go with the wine that you prefer for drinking as well. A bottle that was opened a few days ago can be used to cook. Buying a generic wine off the corner store can also be an option.
However, it is advised to spend some time looking for something that can be equally enjoyed on its own if you plan on serving the same with the meal. Though your dish will not require more than a decent splash, save the limited-release, top-shelf vintage for the glasses. It would be a waste of the beauty to some extent as the maturity, complex aromas, and all the subtle aspects that make the wine great will be lost in the cooking process anyway.
Try and buy a dry wine if you can. Sweet wines have residual sugars that impart extra and often unwanted sweetness to the dish, which can be avoided through dry wine. Therefore, the varietal of wine matters the most.
How To Prep
Because of the alcohol content in the wine, it is advised to add it at the beginning of cooking. This gives the alcohol a chance to burn off. If you splash the wine into the recipe while the cooking nears the end, there will be an unpleasant raw-wine taste in the finished dish.
How To Store
Unopened bottles should be stored in dark and cool places. Once opened, the oxidation process starts, which affects the flavor of the wine adversely. If there is wine still left after a round of drinking, recork using a wine stopper and refrigerate the bottle. This way the process is slowed down. Nevertheless, try to consume a bottle within a few days of opening.
Substitutes Of Wines For Cooking
Having said all that, there is no reason to panic if you can’t get your hands on any wine for your meal. There are a bunch of substitutes that will help you achieve an almost identical end result, but of course, with a little less flair.
- Red or white vinegar- Whatever type of wine you have used, go for the corresponding vinegar type.
- Stock- Be it vegetable, chicken, or beef stock, all of them can produce the aroma and flavor. For a white wine recipe, you can go for vegetable or chicken stock whereas, for a red wine recipe, any of the three stocks would work.
- Juice- Red wine can be substituted by a rich, fruity juice like cranberry, pomegranate, or grape. You can use white grape, apple, or lemon juice to substitute white wine.
- Water- This is the ultimate solution whenever you are in doubt. Wine is basically a way to introduce a layer of complexity to the dish without altering the total amount of liquid it requires. You can simply add water along with some seasoning to prevent the flavors of the dish from diluting.