From vine to table: Discover the art of cooking with wine

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Elevate your cooking skill and explore the world of cooking with wine. Mastering the art of cooking with wine is simpler than you think, and the payoff is a delicious, flavor-rich dish that’ll make you feel like a five-star chef.

Steaming mussels in a pot are deglazed with white wine, cooking concept for a delicious seafood dish.
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Wine can be used in many recipes, from sauces and marinades to stews and soups. When used correctly, wine can enhance the flavors of a dish and create a more complex and rich taste.

Basic rules for cooking with wine

  • Always choose a quality wine that you would want to drink. Avoid using a wine that is past its prime or has gone bad. If the wine tastes sour or smells of vinegar, don’t use it for cooking.
  • Think of wine as a spice and use it in moderation. While wine can enhance the flavor of a dish, too much wine can overpower the other flavors in the finished dish.
  • Don’t cook with expensive or rare bottles of wine. Use good wine, but it’s a waste of money to dump expensive wine into a pot of stew.
  • Some alcohol might be left in the final dish. People who cannot have any alcohol should avoid cooking with wine.
  • Proper storage of wine is crucial to maintain its quality and safety. Keep wine in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight. Once opened a bottle, store leftover wine in the refrigerator and use it within a week.

Choosing the right wine for cooking

Several types of wine are commonly used in cooking, including:

  • Red wine: This type of wine is made from red grapes and has a bold, rich flavor. Use it in hearty dishes like stews and roasts. When cooking with red wine, choose a wine that is bold and full-bodied. Look for high-tannic wines like cabernet sauvignon, merlot or syrah.
  • White wine: White wine has a lighter, more delicate flavor. Seafood dishes and sauces frequently use white wine. Look for wines with high acidity, such as sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio or chardonnay. These wines will add brightness and freshness to food.
  • Fortified wine: Fortified wines have had a distilled spirit, usually brandy, added to them. This process boosts the alcohol content and gives it more concentrated flavors. It also helps preserve the wine, which is why these wines were initially created. Port, Sherry, Madeira and Marsala are the most common fortified wines.
Man holding a red wine bottle and reading the label.
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“I use a dry Sherry when I want to add wine to a dish without opening a whole bottle. Due to the high alcohol content, a bottle of that stuff will last about 3 months in the fridge before the flavors go off.”

— Renee Gardner, Renee Nicole’s Kitchen

What about cooking wine?

Cooking wine is a type of wine that is sold specifically for use in cooking rather than for drinking. It is similar to regular wine, but it often has additional ingredients like salt and preservatives, and it’s lower quality than drinking wine.

Professional chefs and experienced home cooks recommend using regular drinking wines for cooking rather than cooking wines because of their lower quality.

“Do not use cooking wine. Instead, find a decent bottle of wine that you would drink yourself that matches the flavor profile of your dish and use that. You don’t have to spend more than $10-15 on the wine, and as a bonus, you can enjoy a glass after you finish cooking and actually enjoy that glass.”

— Michelle Price, Honest and Truly
Cropped shot of man, Italian cook pouring a glass of white wine into the pan with chopped vegetables while preparing a meal in the kitchen.
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Cooking techniques with wine

When cooking with wine, there are several techniques that enhance the flavor of dishes. Here are some popular methods:


Deglazing uses wine to remove the browned bits of food stuck to the bottom of a pan. To deglaze, pour some wine into the hot pan and scrape the bottom with a wooden spoon or spatula. The wine will dissolve the browned bits, adding complex flavors.

Making stock

Wine is frequently used along with water as the base of stocks. Select a red wine for red meat stock and a white wine for poultry and fish stocks. Stocks are used for many dishes, mainly soups, stew, casseroles, risotto, lentil, bean and pasta dishes.

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Marinating meat or vegetables in wine can add flavor and tenderize tough cuts of meat for grilling or roasting. To marinate, combine wine with herbs, spices and other ingredients in a resealable plastic bag or container. Add the meat or vegetables and let them marinate in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. The thicker the cut of meat, the longer it should marinade.


Braising involves cooking meat or vegetables in a liquid, usually wine, over low heat for an extended time. The slow cooking process allows the flavors to meld together, resulting in a tender and flavorful dish. To braise, brown the meat or vegetables in a pan, then add wine and other ingredients. Cover and simmer on low heat until the meat is tender.


In poaching, food cooks in wine at a low temperature. Poaching is a great way to cook delicate foods like fish or eggs. To poach, bring a mixture of wine and other ingredients to a simmer, then add the food and cook until it is tender.

Woman pouring wine onto pan with sweet pears in kitchen.
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Popular wine-infused dishes

Here are some popular wine-infused dishes to try at home:

  • Coq au vin: This is a classic French dish that translates as rooster in wine. It’s traditionally made with chicken, bacon, mushrooms and onions, braised in red wine and chicken broth. The wine adds a rich, deep flavor to the dish.
  • Beef bourguignon: This stew is another French classic perfect for a cozy dinner at home. This dish features beef stewed in dry red wine with carrots, onions and mushrooms. The dry wine gives the beef stew a deep, rich flavor, and the slow cooking process makes the beef tender and flavorful.
  • Mussels in white wine sauce: Mussels in white wine sauce is a simple yet elegant dish perfect for a romantic dinner at home. The mussels are steamed in white wine with garlic, shallots and butter. The wine adds a delicate flavor to the dish, and the garlic and shallots add a bit of zing.
  • Red wine braised short ribs: This is a hearty, comforting dish perfect for a cold winter night. The short ribs are braised in red wine with carrots, onions and celery until they’re fall-off-the-bone tender. The wine gives the dish a rich, deep flavor, and the vegetables add a bit of sweetness.
  • Wine-braised lamb shanks: Lamb shanks are a fancy yet easy-to-make dish perfect for a dinner party. The lamb shanks are braised in red wine with garlic, rosemary and thyme until tender and flavorful. The wine adds a rich, deep flavor to the dish, and the herbs add a bit of freshness.
  • Poached pears in wine: This makes a refreshing dessert perfect for a summer dinner party. The pears are poached in sweet white wine with sugar, cinnamon and vanilla until tender and flavorful. The sweet wine adds a delicate flavor to the dish, and the spices add a bit of warmth.


Cooking with wine can be a fantastic way to enhance culinary creations. Following these tips and experimenting with different wines and recipes will make food taste even better and impress family and friends with delicious and flavorful dishes.

Anne Jolly is the creator of the food blog Upstate Ramblings. She loves to cook with gadgets like an air fryer, sous vide or pressure cooker. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, reading, knitting and spending time with her three kids.

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