Dry White Wine for Cooking
So…you want a dry white wine for cooking. It’s important to find a wine that compliments your dish, is of reasonable quality, tastes delicious on its own and is a good value. Right away you can eliminate anything labeled as “cooking wine” since it probably earned that title by being unfit to drink. Most recipes call for less than a bottle which leaves you plenty for a couple of glasses of wine with your meal.
Why Dry White Wine for Cooking?
Dry white wines are commonly used for cooking when you don’t want to add sweetness to the dish. As you cook the wine the alcohol will evaporate. This extracts the flavor profile of the wine and adds it to the dish. You’ll want to be careful not to over-extract the wine or add too much to the dish making it difficult to reduce. Using a drinking wine also makes it a convenient wine pairing with your meal as the flavors already naturally compliment one another. As a general rule, dry white wines for cooking should be matched to lighter dishes such as chicken, pork, veal, soup, seafood, shellfish, and vegetables. Below are examples of these dishes paired with widely available wines costing $10 or less!
Perfect Food & Wine Pairings
Explore the Advanced Food and Wine Pairing Chart to understand how to get perfect pairings.
White Meat, Cream Sauces, and Gravies
USE: Rich Dry White Wines ex. Chardonnay
Use thicker and intensely flavored dry whites, such as Chardonnay, for making cream sauces, gravy and chicken. There are many white wines that are rich and creamy, however Chardonnay is probably the most widely available. Cooking with wine in a cream sauce or gravy requires a bit more expertise as it’s difficult to balance acidity or monitor how much of the wine has reduced. This could lead to a sour sauce or residual alcohol, both of which can ruin a dish. It’s especially important in this case to regularly taste your food while cooking.
- Indaba Chardonnay 2010, South Africa ($9) – see at wine.com
- Lismore Range Chardonnay 2010, Australia ($6) – see at winelibrary.com
- Root 1 Chardonnay 2008, Chile ($5) – see at winelibrary.com
Seafood and Shellfish
USE: Crisp Dry White Wines ex. Pinot Grigio
Crisp dry white wines, such as Pinot Grigio, add a fruity, mineral character that is perfect for cooking seafood. A little bit of acidity can cut through a fattier fish, but be careful not to get too acidic as it’s easy to over-extract when cooking. If you’re feeling creative, try any of these other varietals: Vinho Verde, Assyrtiko, Muscadet
- Tiamo Pinot Grigio, 2010, Italy ($9) – see at wine.com
- Broadbent Vinho Verde, NV, Portugal ($10) – see at wine.com
- Kris Pinot Grigio, NV, Italy ($9) – see at winelibrary.com
USE: Light Dry White Wines ex. Sauvignon Blanc
Sauvignon Blanc is a classic light wine with fruity, herbal and floral flavors that add an amazing dimension when cooking vegetables. It’s among the easiest wines to cook with, just splash the wine in the sauté pan to deglaze. Try artichoke, Mediterranean-style tomato dishes, swiss chard, eggplant, garlic, bell peppers and mushrooms. Add a little butter and lemon for extra deliciousness and the perfect balance of acid! Any of these varietals also have similar qualities: Verdejo, Gruner Veltliner, Viognier
- R H Philips Night Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, NV, California ($7) – see at winelibrary.com
- Oxford Landing Viognier 2009, Australia ($10) – see at wine.com
Tips for Cooking with White Wine
- For cream sauces, cook the wine separately and reduce to half of what you started with. Once it’s been cooked down, add the cream. Most recipes call for a 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of wine.
- After sautéing vegetables, splash a few tablespoons of wine into the pan to deglaze.
- For shellfish, add wine to the broth to steam or poach shellfish (mussels, clams, oysters).
- You can add a few tablespoons of wine to marinades to help tenderize the meat and caramelize in cooking.
- The longer you cook the wine, the less alcohol will be in the dish. It can take as long as 2.5 hours of simmering to completely remove the alcohol.
- Open, refrigerated white wine is drinkable for up to a week and suitable for cooking for two weeks.
- Contact me on twitter if you have a question or need a recommendation! @winefolly
Picking a Dry White Wine
Looking for more wine options? Check out the many different types of wine for inspiration
Love Cooking? Here are a few other great articles on food and wine
- The Definitive Guide to Pairing Wine With Chicken
- Chef’s Method: Perfect White Wine Sauce
- Pairing Wine With Fish
- Basics to Flavor Pairing
- Break the Rules: Wine with Mexican Food