Scan this QR Code to follow PureWow on Snapchat!
PureWow

best white wine for cooking
Portra Images/Getty Images

You’re whipping up a classic chicken Marbella, and the Ina Garten recipe you’re following calls for “dry white wine.” You can’t exactly phone the Contessa herself, but come on, Ina: What the heck does that even mean? Pinot grigio is dry…but so is sauvignon blanc. What gives?

Cooking with wine can be totally confusing. While you might be tempted to grab whatever is hanging out in the back of your fridge, it actually does matter which bottle you choose—to an extent. We asked three food professionals (including a master sommelier, a chef and a nutrition director) to find out once and for all how to choose the best white wine for cooking.

1. Choose a white wine with high acidity and light fruit flavors

Celine Beitchman, director of nutrition at the Institute of Culinary Education, suggests a light- to medium-bodied white for cooking. “Unless you’re making a sweet dish, choose a low-alcohol wine with some acidity that’s fresh with a little fruit on the nose.” Her two picks? Pinot grigio from Italy or sauvignon blanc from just about anywhere—with the exception of Australia or New Zealand, where fruit flavors lean toward the tropical. (Tropical chicken Marbella isn’t really what you’re going for, is it?) Something with citrusy notes and lots of bright acidity will liven up your dish.

Master Sommelier Devon Broglie, global beverage buyer at Whole Foods Market, agrees: “For dishes that call for ‘dry’ white wines within the recipe, look for wines (both white and red) that are known to have crisp acidity and moderate alcohol.” He recommends avoiding richer, full-bodied wines and oak-aged wines (e.g., oaked Chardonnay) because they have a tendency to overpower the food.

If you are going for a sweet dish, try a Riesling, suggests Carlos Calderon, brand chef of North Italia. And if that sweet dish needs a little something-something to balance it out, that’s when a dry Chardonnay would work—just look for one that’s “unoaked.”

2. Pick a wine with low to moderate alcohol

In most recipes, wine takes the place of an acid while adding subtle, nuanced flavors. You don’t want to throw a booze bomb into the mix or you’ll risk everything tasting like alcohol. “In most recipes that call for white wine, the goal is to cook off the alcohol,” Beitchman says, “so the flavor shines through.” Lighter-bodied whites generally have lower ABVs anyway. Seek out bottles in the 10 to 12 percent range, like pinot grigio.

3. Think: What grows together goes together

“When possible, I like to use the same thinking as when pairing foods with wines for drinking,” Beitchman says. “Home in on where the wine originated and what foods grow in region the wine hails from. Those flavors have natural affinities whether you’re eating and sipping or cooking them together.”

4. Avoid cooking wines—and really pricey bottles

If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it. “I recommend buying wines for cooking from a wine department in a grocery store or liquor store rather than off the regular grocery aisle,” Broglie says, “because the wines labeled ‘cooking wine’ usually have a ton of added salt.”

But that doesn’t mean you have to go all out on a $100 bottle just for your braised chicken. “The best wines to cook with are inexpensive,” Beitchman tells us, “but that’s not the same as cheap. Use something under $15 a bottle and ideally that you enjoy (or have enjoyed) drinking.” When in doubt, you can always ask the salesperson at your wine store to point you in the right direction.

“A recipe generally doesn’t call for more than a cup of wine, so I like to choose a good, moderately priced ($8 to $12) bottle of Italian pinot grigio or French or Chilean sauvignon blanc,” Broglie says. “That way, I can pour into a pot guilt-free and enjoy a glass or two while it simmers.”

If you have recently opened a bottle and have enough wine leftover to use in your recipe, by all means use it up; you’ll do double-duty by avoiding food waste. Beitchman also suggests combining leftovers from multiple bottles into one container for a general cooking wine—just make sure you label your concoction, so it doesn’t accidentally get poured by the glass!

Best White Wine for Cooking: 7 Bottles to Try

best white wine for cooking Domaine Laporte Val De Loire Sauvignon Blanc
Wine.com/Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

1. 2018 Domaine Laporte Val De Loire Sauvignon Blanc Le Bouquet

Buy it: $19 at Wine.com

Recommended Recipe: Cheater’s white wine coq au vain

best white wine for cooking Domaines Schlumberger Pinot Blanc
Vivino/Photo: Mark Weinberg/Styling: Erin McDowell

2. 2017 Domaines Schlumberger Pinot Blanc Les Princes Abbes

Buy it: $20 at Vivino

Recommended Recipe: Skillet chicken with apricots and fresh herbs

best white wine for cooking prophecy pinot grigio
Wine.com/Quentin Bacon/Cook Like a Pro

3. 2018 Prophecy Pinot Grigio

Buy it: $12 at Wine.com

Recommended Recipe: Ina Garten’s updated chicken Marbella

best white wine for cooking Ziobaffa Organic Pinot Grigio
Wine.com/Half Baked Harvest

4. 2019 Ziobaffa Organic Pinot Grigio

Buy it: $13 at Wine.com

Recommended Recipe: Sweet potato gnocchi in herbed white wine sauce

best white wine for cooking Ferrandiere Sauvignon Blanc
Wine Library/Sarah Copeland/Every Day Is Saturday

5. 2018 Ferrandiere Sauvignon Blanc

Buy it: $11 at Wine Library

Recommended Recipe: White risotto with corn, carrots and kale

best white wine for cooking Hugel Pinot Blanc
Wine Library/Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

6. 2018 Hugel Pinot Blanc

Buy it: $13 at Wine Library

Recommended Recipe: Moules-frites (steamed mussels and fries)

best white wine for cooking Livio Felluga Pinot Grigio
Vivino/RYLAND, PETERS & SMALL/CUCINA SICILIANA

7. 2017 Livio Felluga Pinot Grigio

Buy it: $24 at Vivino

Recommended Recipe: Braised lemon chicken

RELATED: The Best Rosé Wine Under $20 to Sip This Summer, According to a Sommelier

This article reflects prices and availability at publication that may change or vary by location.

PureWow may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.

From Around The Web