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What is a "hearty red wine" in cooking?

I am making braised lamb shanks & the recipe calls for a hearty red wine. I'm not a red wine drinker, so I'm not sure what that means. Any suggestions?

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  1. Any cabernet sauvignon should do it.

    1. A Carlo Rossi burgundy is perfectly fine for the lamb shanks. I used that just last week when making a Jasques Pepin recipe and the outcome was perfect....

        1. I realize many people identify "hearty red wine" as Cabernet Sauvignon, but there are many reasons NOT to cook with that wine. Tannins, for #1. When you cook with wine, it reduces. As the wine reduces, so do the tannins, and the results in your recipe can be quite distasteful. Unless you're really into "mouth-puckering" as a positive quality in your food. ;(

          Better choices are less tannic wines, such as Beaujolais (or other Gamay), Cotes du Rhone, Syrah/Shiraz. Pinot Noir is good to cook with, too, but most are (imho) too expensive for that.

          Many restaurant chefs keep box wines in their walkins to use in cooking. Inexpensive wines are not your enemy when cooking. They work just fine.

          3 Replies
          1. re: ChefJune

            About the only time that I will cook with a CS, is when I am doing burgers, or marinading a tenderloin, and have a bottle open, just waiting.

            Otherwise, Zins come first, and a good Merlot (depending on other aspects of the dish) are usually a second choice.

            Except for certain recipes, I seldom reach for a PN, but then most of mine are in the US $ 50- 300 range, and I want to save every last bit for drinking, but that's just me.

            As for the box wines, I can see that in an active, commercial kitchen. However, in my case, I like to sip a bit, WHILE cooking, and have just not found a BiaB wine, that does much for me. Remember, I am NOT in a commercial kitchen, not doing meals for more than about six (above, and I cater usually) and also "drinking on the job... "


            1. re: Bill Hunt

              , I seldom reach for a PN, but then most of mine are in the US $ 50- 300 range, and I want to save every last bit for drinking, but that's just me.>

              Hunt, I would NEVER cook with a PN in that category!

              1. re: ChefJune

                I never expected that you would.

                What I might need to do is look at a few of my Acacia PN's, which have been hidden in the back of my cellar. They ARE in at a much lower level, and, if still good (gotta' dig for them), will give some a try, with the right dish. That is about the only less-expensive PN's that I have around. Have more Zins at the lower price-points.


          2. I use a modestly priced blended French wine, usually Rhone.

            1. One main thing: a DRY wine... not sweet or semi-sweet or off-dry. A younger cabernet sauvignon that is soft on the tannins would be great as is something like sangiovese.

              I think Pinot Noir is a GREAT GREAT wine to cook with, but I personally would not consider it "hearty".

              2 Replies
              1. re: nasv

                I have yet to find a "younger" Cabernet Sauvignon that is not VERY tannic. The tannins soften with age.

                OTOH, Sangiovese is a good choice as it is a soft red wine. But leave the Riserva Chiantis and Brunellos for drinking, please!

                1. re: ChefJune

                  Holy moly, please do NOT cook with Brunello!

                  I've had some luck with some cheaper cabs that likely have shorter maceration periods or are destemmed quicker... who knows... they are smoother and not made to last too long, usually in the $5-$10 range at Trader Joe's.

                  Cheers... and yes, SAVE the Brunelli for drinking!

              2. You could certainly use an inexpensive (selling for $5 to $10) zinfandel or petite sirah as well.

                1 Reply
                1. re: DavidT

                  Yes. The last case of Peachy Canyon (Westside, IIRC), was about US8.95 in that quantity, and on sale.


                2. For a "hearty red wine," I use Zinfandel. I keep a couple of the Peachy Canyon Zins handy, and what does not go into the pot, goes into the cook. When I hit a sale on PC Zins, I just pick up a case, stick in the front of the cellar, and draw from that, as needed.



                  1. I am well versed in the wine types and categories but my question is:

                    Do single varietals perform better than blends in cooking?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: MSK

                      not in my experience. Cotes du Rhones, which are almost always blends, are among my favorites for "cooking wine."

                      1. re: MSK

                        That might depend on the recipe, but as I normally have Zins handy, I usually grab one. The tannins are light, usually, and the acid is not too high, though with some dishes, a higher-acid wine might be an enhancement.

                        I also cannot recall doing a side-by-side, to compare. The closest that I get to that would be with ground sirloin burgers, where one night, I might mix in a bit of Merlot, and the next time, might grab a Zin. Sort of depends on what is available, or what I plan on serving.



                      2. Wow, chefs using box wines to cook with. In central Florida, we recycle the blue plastic 55 gallon drums of cooking wine from the restaurants into rain barrels. Cabernet sauvignon, chablis, sake.