The 8 Best Wines For Cooking

Everyone knows wine tastes delicious in a glass, but did you know it could also be the missing ingredient in your next great meal?

From light whites like Albariño to heavy reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, the wide range of wine flavors, aromas and personalities mean there’s no lack of vino-infused dishes to prepare and enjoy.

For Wine Insiders’ insight and tips on using excellent wines to enhance your meals, read on for our Guide to the 10 Best Wines for Cooking:

Reds For Cooking

Red drinking wines typically pair best with heavier meals, but does the same rule apply to cooking with a bottle of red?

Let’s break down some of the best red wines for cooking to answer this question and help you shake up your meal with some vino goodness.


Merlot is a versatile wine that can add distinct taste and personality to your dish with oodles of red and black fruit flavors, a silky body, and light to moderate tannins.

While Merlot is relatively versatile for cooking wine, we specifically recommend utilizing this red in a sauce or reduction to complement proteins (like duck, chicken, or pork), vegetables, or mushrooms.

Sample Dishes:

  • Merlot Mushrooms
  • Pork Tenderloin with Merlot Sauce

Learn more about Merlot here!

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is an intense vino with bold, dark fruit flavors, a full body, and a robust tannin profile.

To make the most of your favorite “Cab,” use it to enhance recipes featuring braised veal, beef, lamb, meat stew, and the like to ensure your wine balances the dish rather than overwhelming it.

After you finish braising with this wine, we suggest utilizing the leftover Cab as a tasty glaze.

Sample Dishes:
  • Pan-Roasted Veal Chops with Cabernet Sauce
  • Cabernet-Braised Beef Stew

Learn more about Cabernet Sauvignon here!

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir can be a refreshingly light alternative to heavier options in the land of red wine.

Mixing lovely red fruit and earthy flavors, a light body and relatively low tannins, this smooth vino marvelously enhances specific dishes.

To make the most of your Pinot, use it in fattier recipes featuring duck or meaty stew and allow it to slowly, flavorfully tenderize your meat.

Wine Insiders Tip: You’ll notice that Pinot-infused dishes often call for multiple cups of wine, but don’t worry about overdoing it. This lighter red rarely overpowers a meal.

Sample Dishes:

  • Duck Breast with Pinot Noir Sauce
  • Beef Bourguignon

Learn more about Pinot Noir here!


Madeira is a sweeter, fortified wine that prominently features an intriguing selection of recipes.

Mixing burnt sugar, citrus fruit, and hazelnut flavors with a full body, minimal tannins, and a notably high ABV (alcohol by volume), this Portuguese red is nothing if not unique.

We suggest reducing Madeira as a delightful dessert glaze or a syrupy infusion of sweetness and herbaceous flavors into red meat or roast chicken dishes.

Sample Dishes:

  • Chicken Madeira
  • Madeira Cake

Learn more about sweet wines like Madeira here!

Whites For Cooking

White wines may lack the bolder personalities of their red relatives, but that doesn’t mean they can’t also take a dish from standard to superb.

Let's break down a few of the best white wines for cooking to help you infuse some of your favorite wines into simple, light, and delicious meals.


Albariño is an iconic vino blanco Español (Spanish white wine) with the ideal personality and taste profile for cooking wine.

Mixing prominent, fruity flavors of lemon, grapefruit, and melon with a light body, high acidity, and hint of saltiness, this notably dry white is practically a meal.

To make the most of this Spanish vinicultural treasure, we recommend reducing Albariño and combining it with a wide range of seafood such as shellfish, sole, trout, halibut, or sea bass.

Sample Dishes:

  • Galician Mussels with Albariño
  • Filet of Sole in Albariño Sauce

Learn more about Albariño Here!

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is a white wine lover’s dream and an excellent cooking option.

This crisp, refreshing vino offers fresh fruit flavors, a medium body, bright acidity and prominent herbaceous notes that pleasantly harmonize with many recipes.

We find Sauvignon Blanc often works best in a creamier marinade, risotto, pasta or seafood dish that balances the wine’s brisk personality with the denser aspects of your meal.

Sample Dishes:

  • Sauvignon Blanc Linguini
  • Shrimp Scampi with Sauvignon Blanc

Learn more about Sauvignon Blanc here!

Pinot Grigio

Pinot Grigio is a crowd-pleasing wine and an excellent addition to a wide range of dishes.

Dry and crisp with citrus and stone fruit flavors, a light body and moderate acidity, this classic white harmonizes excellently with seafood and light pasta.

Whether you’re a cooking novice or a seasoned chef, it’s easy to spruce up a simple dish with a Pinot Grigio-based broth or light sauce.

Sample Dishes:

  • Spaghetti with Pinot Grigio, Seafood and Veggies
  • Pinot Grigio Buttered Scallops

Learn more about Pinot Grigio here!


Chardonnay is the best-selling varietal in America, and for good reason:

Combining a wide range of fruity flavors with a medium to full body and moderate acidity, this go-to white tastes excellent in a glass or as part of a delicious meal.

We recommend combining lighter, unoaked Chardonnay with creamy dishes featuring chicken, pasta or pork that highlight your bottle’s best qualities.

Sample Dishes:

  • Coq au Vin Blanc (Chicken with White Wine)
  • Pork Loin with Chardonnay and Herb Gravy

Learn more about Chardonnay here!

Wine Insiders: Vino for Cooking and Drinking

Now that you know more about the best wines for cooking, it’s time to explore Wine Insider’s world-class selection of diverse, delicious wines!

Whether you’re looking for a bright white to pair with your light lunch, a heavy red for your braised meat dinner, or a first-rate wine set mixing your favorite international bottles, we have the affordable vino you need for every occasion.

For more information about wine regions, varietals, and more, check out our full library of Wine 101 Guides!

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