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What is your favorite bargain cooking wine?

I'm on a very strict budget, as I'm sure some others are. However, don't want to give up cooking with wine, ever!

So, with that said, what is your favorite bargain cooking wine? I understand that one should cook with a wine that one would drink, but do you feel this is true? Would you never drink two buck chuck but use it for beef bourgione?

Thoughts and suggestions are appreciated.

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  1. OJD, you might look into this thread:

    Lots of very good wines mentioned under $15...I don't have Two Buck Chuck wines available here so I don't know if I'd use any of them for cooking. And, yes, I do agree that I would only cook with wine that I would drink...that said, I do not have a very discriminating palate...ha!

    1. Yes, it is definitely true that you should cook with a wine you would drink. And never, ever, buy that stuff in the grocery store that is labelled cooking wine. As Val points out, there are tons of decent, drinkable wines well under $15.

      1. I usually just reach for an unfinished bottle in the fridge to use for cooking (after a quick taste). If I have to open something specifically for cooking it would be something like a Perrin CdR, Taurino Salice Salentino, Pepiere muscadet depending on the dish.

        1. Julia Child was wrong on this one. I regularly cook with all sorts of plonk I wouldn't drink and it works just fine. Don't use corked or otherwise flawed wine, or "cooking wine", but feel free to use the two buck chuck.

          Here's an article that might help:

          1 Reply
          1. re: oolah

            This is a really interesting article. It definitely hammers home the point that you do NOT need to cook with a very expensive wine vs. something in the 4 - 10 dollar range. And while you would probably enjoy drinking the more expensive wines over the cheap ones, I'm sure many would find the cheaper wines passable. As the article states, when Julia Child made her statement, there were much fewer inexpensive wines available. And my feeling is that the heart of the statement is that you do not want to cook with that crap you find on the grocery store shelfs. So, at the time she made the statement, I think she was right on, may she rest in peace. She did more to advance cooking in the US than anyone before or since, so I'm giving her a pass on this one.

          2. I use TBC to cook with especially for reds. Also, there are some very nice inexpensive sherries and ports that can be used for cooking - you just need to do a bit of searching. When I need a dry white wine I use my martini vermouth, Martini & Rossi, unless I have an open bottle of something or other. The most expensive wine I have bought for cooking was a 16$ bottle of Grappa. That's probably my limit for cooking wines.

            1. I'm back in DC and "discovered" the Trader Joe's near Penn & 25th. Got my first Two Buck Chuck (for $3). It would be fine for cooking!

              1. After reading the New York Times article I actually tried cooking with two buck chuck and it turned out just fine.

                That said, my go-to red is Bonny Doon Big House red which I an get on sale for $7 at Safway and has a screw-top so I know it won't be corked. White is the Bonny Doon Big House White or dry Riesling.

                1. Personally, I would neither cook with nor drink $2 Chuck, but there are a number of inexpensive wines that I will both drink AND cook with.

                  The Frontera wines (Concha y Toro) from Chile are all tasty and inexpensive. Fine for everyday drinking, and anytime cooking. I also use Banrock Station wines (Australia) and Col di Sasso (red) and Le Rime (white) --Italian from Banfi Vintners. All are well under $10 a bottle.

                  There are more, but that's a good start. ;)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ChefJune

                    Actually had the Two Buck Chuck Cab first last night. I won't be getting more of that for drinking! Had the Fontera /Concha y Toro last time; and got another big bottle for drinking at Giant today.

                  2. I agree with the NYT article--I've been cooking with wines I wouldn't be thrilled to drink for years--but want to note something that the article doesn't really make clear, I don't think: I personally would not cook with anything that has an actively unpleasant flavor to me--i.e. anything very bitter or with unpleasant aromas, like "barnyard" flavors in most instances, onion, etc... Cooking will only concentrate those. Cooking with wines that are inferior because of lack of complexity or because they're too light / young would be completely fine in most instances.

                    I've only had Two-Buck Chuck once and had to spit it out, my batch was so bad. But it changes a lot from bottle to bottle, even within the same year, I know. I wouldn't cook with the bottle I tried, but I'm sure there are Two-Buck Chucks that I would use.

                    I second ChefJune's Banrock Station suggestion for cooking (and sangria making!). I also have on hand Penfolds Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz, Goats do Roam and an inexpensive Bogle or two for cooking and everyday drinking.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: cimui

                      cimui, you are right... most Cabernet Sauvignons and many (american mostly) Chardonnays are not good to cook with because the Cabs are very tannic and impart that puckeriness as they reduce. For the Chards, they often impart their over-oakiness in an unpleasant way.

                    2. I usually just grab a bottle of something cheap to cook with. There are hundreds of brands out there: Barefoot, Jacob's Creek, Stonehenge by Beringer, and a lot of other major labels second brands. While you don't want to go reaching for the Night Train for your Burgundy Beef you also don't need to go the Tyler Florence route, who I saw use two bottles of fifty dollar Burgundy for his stew.

                      1. I cook regularly with wine and don't use the cheapest nor the most expensive. That being said I want wines that have continuity with the flavor profie so my recipe doesn't change dramatically each time.
                        For whites: Dry Creek Fume Blanc (CA)- clean flavors, not to citrusy or too grassy, Tin Roof (CA) Sav Blanc, Mount Nelson Sav Blanc (NZ) For Reds: Rex Goliath Pinot Noir, Cabernet & Merlot (CA). I tend not to cook with Chardonnay as I dont want the oakly flavors. I have also used Alexander Valley New Gewurz (CA) with pork, duck, goose & chicken - it has a huge floral spicey component that can overwhelm dishes, but for some dishes I like that. (disclaimer - I work for AVV)

                        1. I shop varietals instead of wineries. I like grocery outlet's wines for cooking as they have a broad range of varietals at bargain prices.

                          1. For company, I usually use a good wine, still not very expensive but 15 or less which I think are just fine tasting. Many out there that are not that bad.

                            For cooking ... I hate to admit it, but Walmart carry a brand made for them and honestly ... they are not bad. 3.99 and they have a cab, merlot and white. I use them all the time and I am very very pleased with them.

                            When I cater I do use a better quality wine, but most of the time I don't. I just don't find that much difference to warrant the extra expense.

                            I am making beef bourgione for a couples anniversary next week ... I will probably use my 3.99 a bottle wine and it will taste just great.

                            1. Julia Child used Vermouth regularly in lieu of dry white wines in recipes that called for it. She would cut back about 1/4. As far as reds go, it's a great pairing idea to use the same wine that you're serving, or something similar it. Makesboth the dish and the wine taste great (all other things taken into consideration. And it DOES make a difference to use a decent wine. I would never use anything I wouldn't drink, and I would never drink that crap from Walmart.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: cookinuptop

                                It was given to me and I would of never bought it, believe me but I tried it and it was surprisngly descent. I was shocked. It is not what I would normally get, but for cooking some things where it is a background flavor I was impressed. Just because it is walmart doesn't mean the company making it for them is bad. There are many descent store bought brand items.

                                I was surprised and for a nice dinner party I would invest in a better quality but for every day and immediate friends, I find it is just fine. I used both and tasted both and both taste equally as good.

                                Again a shock to me.