Choosing a wine to cook with can be maddening, but it’ll definitely become easier with the tips below!
1) Read the recipe.
A recipe will often provide you with your starting point. While it may be vague i.e. “dry white wine” or it simply may read “1 cup wine”, these two seemingly unhelpful entries are actually full of information so don’t ignore them. The first, “dry white wine” translates to you buying white wine that is not sweet. The second, “1 cup wine” means you’ll only need to buy one bottle or you can even buy a split (a half bottle) if you don’t plan on drinking any. One standard size bottle of wine is 750 ml, which roughly translates to 26 ounces, so for cooking you will get about 4 cups from one bottle.
2) Know what you’re planning to cook.
If you are looking to make Coq au Vin, where wine shares the spotlight with the other main ingredient, chicken, you will need to buy a wine you like to drink. The wine matters much more in this scenario than if your dish calls for wine to deglaze the pan. Deglazing essentially means you need a little liquid to help steam off the bits of food that are starting to stick to the bottom of a pot or pan. In this case a splash of leftover wine is fine (leftover being an open wine that has not sat on your counter for more than 3 days or in your fridge for more than a week, and even at this point taste it first before you add it. Depending on what the room temperature is at your house your wine may turn to vinegar even faster than three days). You can achieve deglazing with water, but wine adds a layer of flavor and complexity, and is just plain more fun to cook with. Either way the wine should be palatable. But if it’s the star ingredient you may want to splurge — and by splurge I mean spend more than $8 but less than $20.