Best Red Cooking Wine: Top 5 Bottles Most Recommended By Chefs

Crimson and vibrant, red wine isn’t just a delightful beverage; it’s also a secret weapon in the culinary world. This versatile ingredient adds depth and complexity to dishes, transforming simple meals into gourmet masterpieces. Whether simmering a rich stew or deglazing a pan, our list of the top seven red wines for cooking can elevate your dishes to new heights. But which blends make for the best red cooking wine to have on hand in the kitchen?

Red wine complements various foods, especially meats, cheeses, and hearty vegetables. Its complex flavors harmonize with the richness of the food, creating a delightful and memorable dining experience. If you want to dip your toe into experimenting with new flavors, we turned to eight expert reviews to find out the five best red cooking wine varieties that were recommended most. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Red wine being poured into a glass
Red wine being poured into a glass (Photo by Apolo Photographer on Unsplash)

The List: Best Red Wines for Cooking, According to Experts

1. Cabernet Sauvignon

textWine barrel with the word whiskey crossed off and replaced with the word Cabernet Photo by Vlad Kutepov on Unsplash
Wine barrel full of cabernet (Photo by Vlad Kutepov on Unsplash)

Calling all home chefs looking to elevate their red meat and sauce game! Cooking with Cabernet Sauvignon unlocks a world of flavor possibilities. Its bold tannins and complex fruit notes add depth and richness to braises, stews, and sauces. Several culinary sources are singing the praises of Cabernet Sauvignon as the perfect partner for these dishes.

Real Simple says a Cab’s full-bodied character is the ideal match for slow-cooked, braised meats. Bake it With Love also likes to use Cabernet Sauvignon in the kitchen for its bold flavor and low sugar content.

Where do you start? Pure Wow offers some do’s and donts for using Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine’s oaky notes can become overpowering with quick cooking methods or lighter ingredients, so skip using it for pan sauces. However, paired with slow-cooked red meat dishes, Cabernet Sauvignon promises to transform your meals, adding a depth of flavor that will have everyone raving.

2. Pinot Noir

a sign that is on the side of a wine rack
Pinot Noir wines on a wall rack (Photo by Mauro Lima on Unsplash)

Pinot noir isn’t just for sipping! For a touch of sophistication, look no further. Pinot Noir’s light body, subtle fruit notes, and elegant tannins make it a dream ingredient, according to several sources. The Pioneer Woman suggests using it to deglaze pans after searing meat, adding a hint of fruity depth to your sauces. It’s even the secret weapon behind classic dishes like Beef Bourguignon, where red Burgundy (made primarily from Pinot Noir grapes) takes center stage.

Mealpro recommends Pinot Noir for those seeking a more delicate touch. This wine pairs beautifully with poultry, fish, and even vegetarian dishes. Its subtle nature enhances flavors without overpowering them, making it a great choice for nuanced dishes.

This lighter-bodied wine cooks beautifully with meat, tenderizing it as it simmers. Plus, its delicate flavor complements the richness of the dish, making it a perfect choice for slow-cooked meals that call for a few cups of wine. So, next time you’re looking for a red wine to add complexity and depth to your cooking, reach for a bottle of Pinot Noir – it might just become your new secret ingredient (MasterClass).

3. Chianti

white labeled bottle on red table
White labeled Chianti bottle on red table photo by Alessandro Sacchi on Unsplash

No matter where you are, add a touch of Tuscan sunshine to your dishes! Look no further than Chianti, a vibrant red wine bursting with character. With its bright acidity and hints of cherry, plum, and fresh herbs, Chianti is more than just a delicious drink – it’s a culinary chameleon. Simmering a rich stew with Chianti unlocks a symphony of flavor, while deglazing a pan with this Italian classic adds a depth that will have you wondering what took you so long to try it.

Even Martha Stewart doesn’t shy away from using leftover Chianti in recipes. She highlights the magic of cooking – sometimes, the best meals come from using what you have on hand. So next time you have half a bottle of Chianti übrig (that’s German for “leftover”), don’t toss it! Pour it into your pot and discover how it elevates your dish into something truly special.

Bake it With Love likes its fruity and peppery notes, explaining how Chianti’s acidity perfectly balances the rich tomato flavors in pasta sauces. Take your spaghetti to new heights with a Chianti-infused arrabbiata sauce, or use it to create a delectable marinara.

The primary grape used in Chianti are Sangiovese grapes. These grapes lend Chianti its signature herbaceous, earthy, and peppery flavors, along with a delightful fruitiness (Pure Wow).

So next time you’re whipping up an Italian feast, reach for a bottle of Chianti. This versatile wine is a secret weapon for unlocking layers of flavor in your cooking, bringing a taste of Tuscany straight to your kitchen.

4. Shiraz

Pouring red wine from bottle into glass
Pouring red wine from a bottle into a glass (© New Africa –

Calling all adventurous cooks! If you’re looking for a red wine that adds a punch of elegance and sophistication to your dishes, look no further than Shiraz. This bold and robust varietal is more than just a dinnertime companion – it’s a secret weapon in the kitchen. Tasting Table says its full-bodied nature and often fruity flavors make it a great choice for a variety of dishes. They point out the subtle peppery spice notes, making it a natural partner for hearty meats.

Mealpro goes a step further, praising Shiraz (also known as Syrah) for its ability to stand up to bolder flavors. This full-bodied wine shines in braised dishes, stews, and even recipes featuring game meat. Its powerful presence adds a distinct depth to your cooking. Bake it With Love even says this wine can handle bolder ingredients like smoked sausage or venison chili, adding a layer of complexity that will take your dish to the next level.

So next time you’re at the wine store, consider grabbing a bottle of Shiraz. This bold red is more than just a delicious drink – it’s a key ingredient waiting to transform your home cooking!

5. Merlot

Red wine being poured into a glass
Red wine being poured into a glass (Photo by Krasula on Shutterstock)

Merlot isn’t just a delightful glass of wine – it’s a secret weapon in the kitchen! Pure Wow spills the tea on why Merlot is a superstar in the kitchen. With its soft, silky texture and low tannins, you won’t have to worry about bitterness ruining your dish. Merlot shines in pan sauces and reductions, adding a touch of jammy sweetness and structure to your creations. Just simmer it gently to concentrate those juicy flavors and watch your sauce transform.

This versatile red wine, known for its smooth and fruity notes, can elevate your cooking like never before. Mealpro echoes the sentiment, praising Merlot’s velvety texture and fruity notes as perfect for culinary adventures. This wine pairs beautifully with poultry, lamb, and even mushroom dishes. Its balanced and approachable flavor profile makes it a popular choice for cooks seeking a milder red wine option.

MasterClass says to simmer the wine with a few other ingredients over low heat to result in a concentrated burst of flavor. The finished product? A rich and decadent sauce that will take your dish to the next level.

How does red wine enhance food?

Red wine is ubiquitous in many types of European and world cuisines. Learning to use red wine effectively in cooking can change and awaken hidden flavors to delight the palate. Foodies and chefs love cooking with red wine for these reasons:

  • Intensifies Flavor: Red wine adds depth and complexity to dishes, enhancing the natural flavors of meat, vegetables, and sauces. Its acidity cuts through richness, creating a balanced and nuanced taste profile.
  • Deglazes and Tenderizes: Red wine’s acidity helps to deglaze pans, dissolving browned bits for a richer sauce and preventing scorching. It can also tenderize meat, breaking down tough fibers for a more enjoyable eating experience.
  • Boosts Umami: Red wine naturally contains glutamates, the savory compounds that contribute to umami flavor. This adds a satisfying depth and richness to dishes, making them even more flavorful.
  • Unleashes Culinary Creativity: Red wine offers endless possibilities for culinary exploration. It can be used in braises, stews, sauces, marinades, and even desserts, enabling foodies to experiment and create unique and personalized dishes.


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