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Cooking with wine - does quality matter?

I've heard that you can cook with just about anything.. Do I dare use Trader Joe's 2-Buck Chuck in my coq au vin?

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  1. You should never cook with something that you would not drink! The flavors in the wine go into the food.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bethd127

      "You should never cook with something that you would not drink!"

      If only because you'll have to drink the leftovers.

    2. I tend to disagree. I find that, unless the wine is the sauce, you can pretty much use anything. In fact, if it's a subtle background flavour, I find cheaper is better. Like for a tomato sauce or something. A cheap bottle that says "Red" will work fine. Same deal for marinating.



      1 Reply
      1. re: Davwud

        No way. Cheap wine will introduce off flavors into your dish every time. Figure if you're cooking with it, you're reducing the liquid and concentrating the flavor. So if it tastes bad to begin with, you're amplifying that. I find the $7-$10/bottle range is good. A Ravenswood Vinters Blend, Big House Red (or white), or similar.

      2. many moons ago i tried using 2 buck chuck for my coq au vin and it was awful. the recipe called for a bottle of good burgundy, but i couldn't couldn't convince myself that throwing in an entire bottle of gevery-chambertin was a good idea. so i thought maybe the chuck would be suffice. i was wrong.

        i can understand the philosophy of not cooking with anything you wouldn't drink, but sometimes i don't feel like cracking open, and therefore drinking, an entire bottle of good wine just so i can deglaze my pan for a sauce. for everyday cooking i'll keep some low-end wine in the fridge. for a dish where wine is a major ingredient, like coq au vin, it makes more of a difference. i still won't break out a nice burgundy, but maybe a more reasonably-priced american pinot noir.

        1. If it tastes bad, it'll make the dish taste bad.

          The Charles Shaw cabernet sauvignon I've had isn't bad, it's just bland. I'd use it to deglaze a pan. I have done.

          However, for a classic coq au vin, where a whole bottle of wine dominates the flavor of the finished dish, I'd use (1) something with more character, and (2) the traditional pinot noir. Living in California, I'd look for an $8 New Zealand pinot.

          1. I totally agree that in something like coq au vin or boeuf bourguignon, the quality of the wine matters very much. The wine is the very essence of the dish, flavoring both the meat and sauce.

            I'm not a big 2Buck Chuck fan to begin with, but I'd definitely recommend something better. I echo a decent moderately priced pinot noir.

            1. I have to agree with bethd127... don't cook with wine you won't drink. Doesn't mean you have to use Grand Cru Burgundy to deglaze a pan... but stay away from the 2 Buck Schlop. It's not hard to have a reasonably priced wine that is drinkable for things like deglazing a pan, but for sauce reductions and meal components, I will always use a pretty decent wine. To my palate it makes a world of difference.

              1. When you cook with wine the alcohol evaporates and the flavore becomes fully concintrated. This is why you should never cook with a wine you will not drink- That does not however mean you cant use a inexpensive wine- there are many very good inexpensive wines out there! :) enjoy!

                3 Replies
                1. re: gastronomy

                  i'm with gastronomy on this one. i just did a huge batch of boeuf bourgignon for 50 and the yellow tail shiraz i used was excellent.
                  for me $6 bottles are what i cook with; drinking is a whole other story.

                  1. re: gastronomy

                    It's not true that the alcohol cooks off completely, especially in a dish like coq au vin. Now would I say that the flavor of wine *concentrates* in a dish, since it's coming into contact with lots of other flavors. Having said that, I wouldn't pour swill in a dish either. I usually try to go for a bottle in the $10 range. Does anyone still make the infamous "cooking wine?"

                    For some more info on wine cooking off, here's a link. Scroll down.


                    1. re: jasmurph

                      I don't want the flavor of alcohol in the finished dish, so if I'm using a large quantity in a covered pot, I first reduce the wine to close to a syrup and then make up the difference with water or stock.

                      "Cooking wine" is still made. It has salt in it to make it undrinkable. Not that it was drinkable in the first place.

                  2. What they said. Well, actually what they who said don't cook with a wine you wouldn't drink.

                    1. yes quality counts--if you can't drink it-don't cook with it either-I cook with $6.00 bottles of wine and it's fine

                      1. No, don't use it. Cooking wine should be drinkable. It doesn't have to be spectacular but keep in mind that flaws are magnified.

                        1. Given that I usually only use a glass or two in the dish, a good rule of thumb is not to cook with a bottle of wine I won't want to drink while cooking.

                          I totally agree with Davwud (the second reply to OP). Obviously if it's a boeuf bourguignonne or a coq au vin, it matters, but otherwise - buy what you are happy to drink and don't worry about it. Prolonged exposure to high heat burns off most of its character, good or bad.

                          1. I've had gone-over red wine completely spoil tomato sauces. I only use wine I'd drink myself.

                            1. Awesome - thanks to you all for the advice! Mr. Shaw will stay in his bottle - and might go straight to the trash bin, for that matter...

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: DistrictFoodie

                                I can't help feeling bad for poor Mr. Shaw. Keep him out of your coq, but consider turning him into sangria and masking his flaws with fruit.

                              2. Most restaurants use fairly characterless boxed wine for cooking, 5 gallon bag-in box California 'chablis' or 'burgundy' type things. For those who often cook with wine, it might be worthwhile to keep a small box of this type, like Franzia comes in 1 or 2 liter boxes. Air doesn't get in, so it keeps for weeks. Just a thought.

                                1. I should amend my previous post above. I would not recommend a 2 buck chuck, but I never spend over $10 for a bottle to cook with.


                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Davwud

                                    Same here, with the one exception of Muscat Beaumes de Venise ($13-15) for desserts that call for Sauternes.

                                    Mostly I use leftovers.

                                  2. I think the real point here is not to use anything labeled "Cooking Wine" (you know, the small bottles for $2.79 made by companies like Reese). I agree with cooking with value wines that are drinkable and always have a bottle of sherry, madeira, and marsala on hand.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: TonyO

                                      You're so right, "cooking wine" is absolutely vile. I tasted it straight out of the bottle and it was syrupy and very salty and tasted NOTHING like wine! Ewe.

                                    2. I think that if there's a wine you wouldn't drink because you find the flavors too pronounced or the wine too acidic, etc. - something definable like that vs. outright awful... you may find that wine goes well in certain recipes where you actually want the kick.

                                      1. I would say it matters ... up to a point.

                                        I use an inexpensive ($7) Cote du Rhone for Provencal Dishes, like la Daube , an inexpensive Burgundy for Boeuf Bourguignon,an inexpensive Chianti for Italian dishes.

                                        I would advise NEVER using a cooking wine. It has salt and other nasty things added, and will ruin your dish. Try and use a wine from the region of the dish you are making.

                                        I never cook with an expensive wine. It just isn't worth it. You can't tell the difference.

                                        1. I support the premise of cooking with wine you would want to drink. When dining in a restaurant with corkage and a chef with a desire to experiment - I take two bottles - one for the chef to incorporate into the meal (and enjoy) and one to compliment the dinner.

                                          At home, I cook with the wine I will drink. Extravagant? Perhaps. But when cooking for friends and family, I want them to enjoy a meal prepared with the best ingredients I can afford. The most memorable coq au vin I have enjoyed was prepared classically in Burgundy with, of course, Burgundy (village). I have also prepared it with a Southern Rhone, and Oregon Pinot Noir; all with lovely results.

                                          Regarding Charles Shaw wines, it is good to follow the seasonal harvests and know if there is a 'surplus' on the market. If there is and it is coming from some of the more noted US wine regions, do you ever wonder where it goes? There are times that sought after wine labels cannot utilize all the product they harvest, yet, due to environmental reasons, cannot simply 'dump' the fruit or juice. For the sleuths amoungts the hounds, follow the scent and you may discover that some of the 'country cousins' may have a bit of pedigree. One never knows!

                                          1. It would be interesting to do a taste-off between two otherwise identical batches of coq au vin, one made with an under-$10 New Zealand pinot noir or Macon, and the other with an excellent Clos de Vougeot.

                                            I suspect that while they would not taste exactly the same, one wouldn't be significantly better than the other.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              I would cook with a premier cru, but would reserve that grand cru to savour as an accompaniment to the finished product. Shared with good friends and family - what a treat!

                                            2. I am not a fan of the charles shaw $2 buck chuck, I end up with the worst pain behind my eyes. I would not even think twice about using a passable wine. Just not the bottom shelf. A bugundy would go well with the Coq au vin, the wine is very much an important player. mmmmmmm. really good stuff.