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Good red wine for cooking

I am making a braised short rib dish and it needs 3 bottles of wine! Any suggestions on a good wine to use? In the past for other braised dishes, I've used a $10 cotes-du-rhone from Safeway with good results, and some meh results on a $13 bottle of barolo from TJ.

Since I need so much wine, wondering if I can make do with maybe the cheaper cotes-du-rhone bottles I've seen at both TJ and World Market. On one hand, I don't want to spend too much money (seems a waste to use a $20-30 bottle for a sauce...would much rather drink it), but on the other hand, don't want to have a blah sauce due to bad wine. I heard the general rule is don't cook with something you wouldn't drink.

Any advice on a good cooking wine ($5-10 range) would be really appreciated. Thanks!

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  1. I use a Fleurie Cotes du Rhone from TJs for long braises and it's really nice. And I think the bottles are $7 each.

    1 Reply
    1. re: farmersdaughter

      I wound up using the Fleurie Cotes du Rhone from TJ ($5.99) and it worked out great! Thanks all for your tips!

    2. I hope this New York Times link works.
      If not, in 2007 the author made a risotto with 2 pricey reds and 2 Buck Chuck from TJ's. the winner was the inexpensive Shaw.

      1 Reply
      1. re: wolfe

        Yes, cheap wine works fine, as the NYT article says.

      2. boy, 3 bottles seems like a great deal of wine for braised short ribs--unless you're cooking a mighty big batch, for a dozen guests, perhaps. my favorite recipes for such braises include a nice 3-veg base, tomato paste, tomatoes, herbs, garlic, good stock and maybe a bottle of wine for, say, 4 lbs of meat.

        in recent years braised short ribs have become an upscale humble offering. still, their origin is down to earth and they needn't require showcase wine. sure you could put in a nice barolo, but i don't. i'd choose a full-bodied south american blend--eg casillero del toro reserva privada at about $15-- or the same vintner's straight cabernet at about $10. i would quite decidedly not use a similarly and modestly priced cote de rhone in such a braise.

        8 Replies
        1. re: silverhawk

          I agree, 3 bottles is A LOT of wine to be using in a braise. Braising does not mean the meat is totally submerged, in fact it should be "a small amount of liquid", according to Barron's Food Lover's Companion. More than that would be poaching, like making a soup. My favorite short rib recipe calls for 2 bottles of beer, 2 cups of stock and 1/4 cup of vinegar, for 6-8 lbs of beef short ribs. And it makes a deliciously luxurious sauce, plenty with leftovers.

          Are you marinating it in the wine or just cooking with it? Marinating, imho, meat to then braise is a waste of time. Anyway, use a red wine you like to drink, it does not have to be expensive. I love a fruity Beaujolais or zinfandel for this type of dish, would not waste a good cab or pinot noir, since you won't ever detect any of the complexities of that wine.

          1. re: Phurstluv

            Here are the cooking "creds" of a chef that uses 3 bottles of wine and the recipe from his cookbook.

            1. re: wolfe

              I'm not questioning any chefs' creds.

              And in the recipe you linked, the first thing they do is reduce the amount of wine. So technically, the ribs are being braised in 1 1/2 bottles, not 3. Even with the 3 qts of stock, seems like a lot of liquid for 8 ribs. The instructions also state to lift the lid, every 1/2 hour to skim. That's one way to lose a lot of liquid, and heat.

              Anyway, everyone seems to have a favorite recipe for short ribs. Mine, btw, is from another chef with great creds, Gordon Hamersley.

              1. re: Phurstluv

                IME, lifting the lid and skimming is to skim the fat, of which short ribs produce more than any other cut.

                1. re: shanagain

                  yes, I read that. Fat can easily be skimmed while resting the meat and reducing the sauce. There are fat separating cups (like a large measuring with the spout at the bottom) that do this quite easily w/out opening the oven, uncovering the pot, and standing there, skimming boiling hot liquid.

                  1. re: Phurstluv

                    Actually the skimming appears unnecessary if one follows this advice from the recipe: It's best to make the recipe to this point, cool and chill the ribs and broth in the pan overnight; scrape off the fat the next day. Rewarm before continuing."

                2. re: Phurstluv

                  Technically you must start with 3 bottles of wine to get the concentrated flavor in 1 1/2 bottles.

                  1. re: wolfe

                    I get that. It's still less liquid than just dropping the meat into 3 bottles of wine.

          2. There is no such thing as a "good cooking wine". Cooking wines are usually made from stuff that nobody would buy to drink and it has salt added. It isn't fit for pigswill.
            The only reliable method for selecting a wine for cooking, as you obviously already know, is; "if you wouldn't drink it, don't cook with it". But that doesn't mean you have to spend $15+ for a wine to use as a cooking ingredient.
            There are some fair (not great) wines available through outlets like Trader Joe's in the $5 per bottle range that work well as cooking ingredients. Also, "red wine" is pretty generic description for a cooking ingredient. A red Port is pretty sweet; Carbernet is often quite dry; its red. Big difference there ...

            3 Replies
            1. re: todao

              i don't think the OP actually meant wines labeled cooking wines, but good wine to cook in. And agree that 2buck chuck works just fine

              1. re: KaimukiMan

                todao, the recipe actually calls for "dry red wine" (as I posted below), I guess almost all the wine I drink is "dry" so that's what I was thinking when I posted, but I probably shouldn't make the assumption that it's true for everyone else. ;-)

                It does seems like some of the other people who've tried this have had some success making it from port as well, though I usually don't use port/sherry unless I want some sweetness in my sauce.

                And yes, as KaimukiMan mentioned, I meant wine for cooking, not cooking wines...I figure if it's something I'd pour down the drain (I gotta admit, I've done that with a few sub-$10 bottles, including 2-buck chuck), I probably shouldn't flavor my meat with it. :-)

                1. re: arlenemae

                  That is probably because you didn't use vintage Wednesday 2 Buck Chuck. That is probably the best day. ;-))

            2. I use Mirassou Pinot Noir in a lot of things - it has a strong peppery taste to it from the glass, so keep that in mind. It should run around $7 at your local WalMart-type store.

              I'm also a fan of Rex Goliath 47lb Rooster pinot noir - but lately it's been really hit or miss, so take that with a grain of salt.

              1. See if you can find an inexpensive Argentinian malbec, that might work for you. I can usually find it for about $8.99/bottle near me (Boston area). Alamos makes a good basic malbec - soft blackberry fruitiness, and a black pepper spice to it, but a nice soft mouthfeel - it doesn't "coat the tongue".

                1. Thanks all for the responses. I guess I will go hunting at TJ's...

                  In case anyone's curious, this is the recipe I'm using:

                  I've made this once using 1/4 the recipe just for me and the hubby so I didn't have to use so much wine before (see the attached pic for how it looked!)...this is my first time making the full recipe since I'm doing it for a dinner party .

                  I think the reason it asks for so much is that you actually reduce the wine by half in the very beginning. It does result in an extremely tasty sauce, at least the last time I made it...back then I went with the Cook's Illustrated recommendation of a $10 cotes-du-rhone for these type of braises, which is fine for one bottle. I just wasn't sure I wanted to spend $30 just for the wine going into the sauce and wondering whether I could cut corners a bit here.

                  3 bottles might still be overkill though (as some of the commenters in the recipe have mentioned), considering you add beef broth to the braising liquid as well.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: arlenemae

                    Funny, that recipe looks hauntingly familiar.

                    1. re: arlenemae

                      you'd need a mighty sophisticated sense of taste to be rewarded by a high end wine cooked out with the modified mirepoix, 10 cloves of garlic and the acidic tomato. still, as a matter of personal preference, i'd rather use a smaller initial volume of modest, well-made wine rather than reduce 3 bottles of bargain wine--unless you know it is ok. reducing by half will likely exaggerate otherwise tolerable--or unnoticed-- imperfections

                      1. re: silverhawk

                        As noted in the Times article linked above, the properties that make a better drinking wine do not always result in a better wine for cooking.

                        1. re: wolfe

                          Agree with both of you. I don't want to go too high-end that it'll be a waste of money and might even make things worse, but then I'm also afraid if I go too cheaply on the wine, especially with reducing it so much, it might exaggerate some undesirable qualities in the wine as silverhawk mentioned.

                          I guess I'm just trying to find a balance here...wish me luck!