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The Best Red Wine To Use For Cooking 

These red wines are the best to use for cooking, braising, and more.

While wine pairs well with many dinners, it is also a useful ingredient when cooking.

Red wine is poured from a bottle into a pot

Whether it is to deglaze the pan, add flavor to sauces, or tenderize meat, wine is for more than drinking in your kitchen. And the best part is, if you enjoy drinking wine, you likely have it handy for cooking applications.

So what is the best red wine for cooking? Well, we will look at eleven wines that are not only delicious to drink but add flavor and complexity to all your favorite dishes.

Pour yourself a glass and get ready to take your cooking to the next level.

Red Wine For Cooking 

Learn the right types of red wine to use in various recipes.


Cabernet Sauvignon

Even if you never have drunk wine before, you have likely heard of Cabernet Sauvignon.

This wine is perhaps the most famous in the world, and you should be able to find a bottle of it no matter where you live.

Regardless of its fame, you can use this wine in a few effective methods while cooking.

The first method is deglazing the pan. Cabernet Sauvignon does not contain much sugar, meaning it won’t immediately caramelize in the pan, allowing you to scrape up the stuck portions of food.

This wine is also useful for braising meat due to its flavor.


Merlot

Winemakers typically grow Merlot grapes in the Bordeaux region of France, one of the hotbeds of wine creation.

This is one of the more expensive wines on this list, so I only suggest using it for cooking if you already have it handy. But if you do, it can add plenty of flavor to any dish.

If you opt to use this in the kitchen, I recommend it as a base for a reduction or sauce.

Merlot has a fruit-forward taste, and you can make a delicious and thick sauce by combining it with some spices and the meat’s natural broth.


Pinot Noir

You can grow Pinot noir grapes anywhere that has a cool climate, though they are most famously grown in the Burgundy region of France.

This is a lighter red wine, so you may think it wouldn’t have many cooking applications. But this wine has its uses, and it is one of the best reds to use in the kitchen.

When looking for a recipe to use Pinot noir with, opt for one that calls for an ample amount of wine.

You will want to use as much wine as possible since Pinot noir does not have a strong taste. Still, using it in a stew or to flavor meat is the perfect application for this famous wine.


Chianti

Chianti traces its origins to the Tuscany region of Italy, and you may recognize it as being the wine that comes in a straw basket.

Though most manufacturers bottle it in more traditional bottles today, this wine is perfect for cooking, no matter what its packaging looks like. 

Chianti is a lighter wine, and it pairs well with vegetables when drinking. If you are using it in cooking, I nominate trying it in tomato sauce.

Think of it like a vodka sauce but with a fruitier flavor. This wine will give you more subdued flavors, so you shouldn’t expect it to be the star of the show.

Learn about other popular Italian red wines.


Beaujolais 

Beaujolais is the name of a wine region in France, but is also the name winemakers in the region have given to their signature wine.

It has a lower tannin content than most of the other wines on this list, as well as lower alcohol content.

While this drink may not be as famous as those produced in the neighboring Burgundy region, it is still an excellent variety and useful in the kitchen.

Due to Beaujolais’ lower alcohol content, it will quickly burn off when cooking with it.

Throw this wine into a sauce late in the cooking process to extract flavor and lose the alcohol. Check out other French wines!


Bordeaux 

Bordeaux is another delicious red wine to pair with a meaty dish, and it is just as effective when cooked into a meal.

Bordeaux is one of the most expensive wines on the market, but you are buying quality.

The French region is famous for its wine production, producing millions of bottles of wine every year.

Of course, you may find a bottle of Bordeaux too expensive for cooking applications, so your mileage may vary.

If you decide to use this wine for cooking, I recommend cooking it into a stew or other heavy dish. Bordeaux also has excellent applications in anything you would use Merlot for.


Carmenere 

Carmenere is perhaps the most obscure option on this list, but that does not mean it has no value in culinary pursuits.

This strange wine is quite flexible and will bring numerous dishes to life. Drinking it will produce tasting notes of cocoa and berries, something unique to wine flavor profiles.

I recommend using this spirit in Mexican dishes, as its flavors pair well with the meats and spices found in that style of cuisine.

Carmenere also pairs well with lamb and bacon. Carmenere is an experimental wine, and it deserves experimenting in the kitchen.


Nebbiolo 

When picking your cooking wine, you often want to avoid wines with higher tannin content as they may leave behind bitter tastes.

That is not the case with Nebbiolo, as you will get a lot of mileage out of it as a braising wine.

This wine is easy to find in your local grocery store or wine shop and not as expensive as other options on our list.

If you use this in cooking, I propose using it with meat. Nebbiolo has high acidity and tasting notes of black pepper, so it makes a perfect complement to beef.


Shiraz 

Iran may not be the first country you imagine when you consider wine, but Shiraz wine is well worth considering for your culinary needs.

While many home chefs use it just as a pairing with meats like lamb and beef, it has applications in dishes as well.

I advocate trying it with grilled sausage if you feel adventurous. Of course, cooking it into a lamb stew or using it as a reduction with duck is more common.

Shiraz is a versatile wine, and you can play around with its applications.


Zinfandel 

America has become a powerhouse wine region recently, and Zinfandel proves that the United States knows how to make a bottle of delicious red wine.

When drinking this, I noticed notes of tobacco and spices, which reminded me of the tastes you see in coffees.

I suggest using Zinfandel in beef dishes, as the fruity notes pair well with just about any meat.

You could also attempt to add this into a curry to add extra complexity to the flavor. I think experimentation is the best way to enjoy this wine in cooking.


Tempranillo 

I have tasted several Spanish wines over the years, and none has compared to Tempranillo.

While it may not stand up to some of the powerhouses of French wine, this drink still has a nice fruity flavor.

As far as cooking with Tempranillo is concerned, I find it pairs best with Mexican dishes coincidentally.

The flavor in the wine is lighter than many others on the list; it adds a pleasing accent to a meal.

The spiciness of the food also mixes well with this wine’s flavor. And it is not difficult to keep around the house, as it is extraordinarily delicious on its own.


Final Thoughts

No matter your culinary habits or favorite types of wine, there are numerous applications for the world’s most prestigious drinks in the kitchen.

Whether you use a heavier wine in your stews or a lighter brand to finish dishes, I hope you have fun experimenting with wine in your kitchen.

If your recipe calls for white wine, check out the best white wines for cooking!

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Written by Erin Elizabeth

Erin lives in East Passyunk and enjoys checking out the local restaurants in South Philly and beyond. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.