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How to Cook with Wine and What to Use

Dr. Erin O’Reilly - Certified Specialist of Wine

Wine’s a versatile ingredient in the kitchen. From sauces to baked goods, splashing in a little vino can enhance any dish. Check out these quick tips to get started cooking with wine.

chef pouring red wine into goulash

How to Cook with Wine

Every wine has structural components - acid, tannin, alcohol and sometimes sugar - that transform when used for cooking.

Sugar and acid concentrate when cooked down. Tannins, the grippy quality in red wines, become more pronounced, but when combined with the proteins in meats, they soften. Alcohol can enhance the chili spice in foods but will dissipate when heated. If you leave a little of the alcohol (or add a dash before serving), it will lift up the flavors of other ingredients, creating a richer overall aroma experience in your dish.

What Can You Cook with Wine?

Getting started with wine in the kitchen doesn’t have to be complicated. Start with the recipes you normally make, and then look for ways you might want to experiment. Here are a few common ways you can use wine in cooking:

  • Wine for Roasting: Add wine to create a moist environment for vegetables and meats.
  • Wine for Steaming: Substitute wine for water to add flavor to steamed vegetables.
  • Wine for Marinades: Use wine for marinades. The acid will help add complexity to the finished dish.
  • Wine for Braising: Wine’s ideal for braising to add acid and flavor.
  • Wine for Deglazing: Use wine to deglaze food that’s stuck on the bottom of the pan to create rich sauces.

Cooking with Red Wine

Stick with fruity, friendly red wine for cooking. If you want to stock up on red wines for cooking (and drinking), then choose light, simple dry reds. These lighter wines are more adaptable to a range of recipes than, say, a high tannin, complex Cabernet. Excellent dry red wine for cooking include Grenache, Gamay, Chianti, and Pinot Noir. Full-bodied, heavily-oaked red wines may work for a roast marinade, but could overpower a sauce, so start your experimentation with these lighter reds.

A chef pouring white wine into a frying pan with mushrooms

Cooking with White Wine or Rosé

White wine for cooking, like Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, can contribute apple, stone fruits, and herbal or grassy flavors. Stick with dry white wine for cooking. Be careful with sweet white wines, as they’ll add additional sugar to your dish which you may not want. It’s safer to add sugar as a separate ingredient to control the overall sweetness level in your dish. A general rule of thumb is that you can substitute dry rosé wines for light- and medium-bodied white wines. Rosé will bring tart citrus and berry notes.

Cooking with Fortified Wines

Fortified wines bring heft and body to your dish. They make excellent cooking wines for building sauces and soups. Port brings all of the same qualities as red wine plus sugar, making it a robust wine to add to tomato-based sauces. The indestructible, shelf-stable Madeira contributes nutty notes perfect for risottos, white sauces, and soups. Cooking Sherry actually has salt already added to it, so double-check your flavors before salting your dish.

Cooking with Sparkling Wines

Sparkling wines like Prosecco or Champagne work well with baked goods, adding lift and lightness thanks to the wine’s bubbles. Sparkling wines are high in acid, so treat it like you would buttermilk in your baking recipes.

Pick a Brut (dry) wine, because you’ll want to have control over the final amount of sugar in your finished product. Prosecco is the most readily available (and least expensive) sparkling wine for cooking, but you can certainly substitute Champagne, Cava, or Crémant.

A couple cooking a drinking wine together

Can You Drink Cooking Wine?

You can drink cooking wine if you’re using a regular bottle of table wine. The best way to cook with wine is to buy a normal bottle of wine and add it to the dish you want to make. You can buy specialty cooking wine, like cooking Sherry. Drinking cooking wine is perfectly safe, but you won’t want to! Wine producers who make cooking wines often add salt to them so that the wines can be sold in shops that aren’t otherwise licensed to sell alcohol.


The best way to cook with wine is to experiment with dishes you already know and love. Get comfortable with the way wine adds flavor, acid, and texture to your favorite foods. The more familiar you are with the way wine interacts with different ingredients or cooking processes, the more natural it will feel to add a splash or two of wine as you try new dishes.

Erin O'Reilly Author Bio Image Author Bio: Dr. Erin O’Reilly, Certified Specialist of Wine, is a wine writer and educator. She pens her work from Monterey wine country where she raises a glass to the growers and producers dedicated to crafting great wines.