What Is A Dry Red Wine For Cooking?

Some recipes require you to add wine. In some cases, you need to add dry red wine. Given that there are many kinds, what is a dry red wine that you can use for cooking? Here’s everything you need to know about cooking with dry red wines!

What’s A Dry Red Wine?


Before diving deep into the fascinating subject of cooking and wine, it’s important to know what a dry red wine is and if you can use it for cooking. If you go to a liquor store, endless bottles of wine will greet you.

But how do you know which one falls under the category if you need a dry red wine? It would be easier to look for wines you need for your cooking needs if you know a little bit about what dry wine is in general.

Dryness in wine has something to do with its sweetness. According to some connoisseurs, wine is considered dry if it has less than 1% residual sugar. If you are wondering what residual sugar is, it’s the sugar left in the wine after it has gone through the fermentation process.

When winemakers make dry wines, they go through several processes to ensure they meet the right residual sugar content. After harvesting and crushing the grapes, the fermentation process is crucial in making dry wines. During the fermentation process, the yeast eats up the grape’s natural sugars like glucose and fructose. It then produces the alcohol found in wine.

The winemakers know when to stop the fermentation, depending on the type of wine they are producing. For dry wines, the fermentation lasts until the residual sugar left falls between 1 to 2 grams per liter (g/L). The alcohol levels usually fall between 12% to 14%.

What Are The Common Dry Red Wines For Cooking?

Even during ancient times, people used wine not only for drinking but also for cooking. Whether from the East or West, wine was added to food – from preparation to the actual cooking process. So it’s no surprise that professional and home cooks now still incorporate wine in some of the dishes they make.

Now that you know how to identify a dry red wine from other types of wines out there, here are the best varieties you should consider for cooking:

Pinot Noir


There have been numerous tales surrounding the origin of Pinot Noir grapes. Regardless of where it originated, it’s clear that it’s a grape variety grown for a very long time, especially in the Burgundy region of France.

You can find the best Pinot grapes in this part of the world! However, Pinot Noir is also grown in New World wine regions such as Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and many other places.

Pinot Noir’s taste is not that complex. It has hints of pomegranates, cherries, and berries. These are mostly red-colored fruits. It’s often paired with aged cheeses, fatty fish, and meaty stews.

When used in cooking, Pinot Noir wine does not overpower or overwhelm the flavors of the dish you are cooking. It’s light and earthy as well. If you are cooking Beef Bourguignon, it requires you to add red wine. Adding Pinot Noir to this classic French dish is almost a must! You should not skip using Pinot Noir if you have plans to make this dish.

Apart from Beef Bourguignon, you can use Pinot Noir in other stews. It also works well when you are making sauces as well. It enhances the flavor, making it richer and tastier.



Merlot is another popular dry red wine variety that you can use for cooking. Merlot grapes are also grown extensively in Bordeaux, France. It‘s also grown in Italy. You can also find Merlot grapes in other parts of the world like the United States. It’s a really popular wine over there.

Once you have drunk Merlot, there will be an explosion of black and red berry notes. There’s also a hint of cherries and currants. As soon as the Merlot touches your lips and tongue, you can feel how soft and smooth it is.

The Merlot’s alcohol level depends on where it is from. If it comes from France, it would be between 13% to 14%. However, if it’s produced from the New World Wine territories where it’s usually much warmer, the alcohol level is a bit higher at 14.5%.

One of Merlot’s strong points is its diversity. You can pair it with a lot of dishes – from poultry to pizza! And when it’s time for cooking, Merlot’s flavorful nature gives your dish that extra kick!

If you are cooking a chicken or pork dish that needs a dry red wine, Merlot is the perfect choice.  It’s also great for vegetables and certain types of desserts.

Sauvignon Cabernet


Sauvignon Cabernet is produced in almost all wine-making countries. It is, probably, the most popular red grape variety in the world. The Sauvignon Cabernet grape is a product of two varieties – Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Just like Pinot Noir and the Merlot, the Sauvignon Cabernet is grown abundantly in Bordeaux.

In terms of its profile, the Sauvignon Cabernet wine is dry and full-bodied. The alcohol content is between 13.5–15%. There’s a hint of black cherries and black currents in this wine. As for the notes, it depends on where the Sauvignon Cabernet is from. It could be savory or fruity, making this wine an amazing addition to any dish!

If you are braising meat, adding Sauvignon Cabernet intensifies the flavors of the dish and all its ingredients. As the meat softens and cooks, it absorbs the wine’s flavoring, making it more delectable.



Chianti is another dry red wine that’s great for cooking. The origin of this wine can be traced to the Tuscan region of Italy. It is made from the Sangiovese grape variety. A sip of this tarty wine would feel like you are transported to the Italian vineyards.

The taste of Chianti wines depends on how long it has been aging. It’s acidic with notes of plums and cherries. It also has smokey and herbal notes as well. If you are about to eat a heavy dish or two, a glass of Chianti will be the perfect pair for your meal. And this wine works well with a hearty slice of steak.

One of the best uses of Chianti in cooking is with light pasta dishes. Adding Chianti to the sauce would add more layers, giving it a much bolder flavor. If the pasta recipe asks for Chianti wine, you can’t substitute it with white wine or some sort of cooking wine. Replacing Chianti would lessen the complexity of flavors the dish should have.

Why Add Dry Red Wine To Your Cooking?


There might be people out there who don’t realize that some of their favorite dishes are made with dry red wines. What are the reasons why wine is an integral part of cooking various types of dishes?

For Marination

If you are cooking, you want to make your dish as tasty as possible. Hence, the preparation process is important. One of the best ways to add flavors to your meat, fish, or vegetable is by marination. In some dishes, dry red wine is something you can use for soaking purposes.

Since wine has acidic properties, it helps in tenderizing the meat. The more tender the meat, the better! And to add, the dry red wine boosts the flavors of the other marinade ingredients.

Liquid Enhancer

While it’s not exactly a well-kept secret, dry red wine is one of the key ingredients that make some of your dishes much more delicious. The intricate flavors of the wine act as flavor enhancer.

And as each dry red wine has its flavor profile, they add something extra to the dish. The dry red wine flavor elevates the dish, adding more flavor complexity, depth, and intensity.

Things To Remember When Cooking With Dry Red Wine


The type of wine and its flavors will influence the taste of your finished dish. Hence, you need to be smart about this. If you are having a difficult time figuring things out, here’s something you can do to help you out.

Just think of wine pairing. If a particular wine works well with the meal, the higher the chance of it pairing well with whatever you are cooking. If you are cooking something that involves something heavy yet hearty, you might want to add a full-bodied dry red wine.

If working with dry red wines, maybe choose something that doesn’t have a high tannin level. Tannin is responsible for that dry feeling in your mouth when you drink dry red wines. You certainly don’t want that aftertaste in the dish you are making.

It’s also important that you don’t go overboard with the wine. The addition of dry red wine to your cooking should not overthrow the other ingredients and flavors. It should act as a supplement that complements everything else that’s involved in the dish.

Cook And Dry Red Wine: A Winning Combo

Cooking is all about dishing out great dishes and learning new ways to develop your culinary skills. Cooking with dry red wines seems to be something that would be part of that process. So the next time you try to cook something, don’t forget to pick the right kind of dry red wine if the recipe calls for it!

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