When it comes to cooking, white wine is a surprisingly common ingredient – but how do you make sure you’re using the best white wine to cook with? Sure, you could reach into the fridge and just grab whatever bottle you happen to have open at the time, but you certainly wouldn’t treat other ingredients like this. If a recipe called for ‘herbs’ you’d have wildly different results using tarragon than you would using thyme, and from basil than you would using chives – so why would we treat Chardonnay and Sauvignon the same?
If you’re looking for a good white wine for cooking then there are two things you’re going to care about – the taste, and, understandably, the cost. While we’d love to live in a world where it was economic for us to pop a $100 bottle of wine each time we want to make a risotto, in all likelihood you’re not going to go for this unless you’re far significantly more wealthy than we are.
What kinds of dishes typically require a white wine for cooking?
White wine is amazingly versatile, and there are many recipes which use white wine to really enhance the flavors present in the dish. Generally you’ll find a white wine used for cooking in recipes which are either (A) creamy, (B) using chicken or (C) using seafood – but this list is far from exhaustive.
In contrast to red wines, white wines tend to have more powerful acidic notes and are more ‘zesty’, so you’ll often find them being added to recipes and sauces which are in need of a bit of an additional uplifting note. To illustrate our point, we collected a couple of recipes using white wine for cooking – and as you can see, there’s quite the variety:
- Poached Hake with corn salsa and white wine-butter sauce (seafood)
- Sauvignon Blanc steamed mussels (seafood)
- Seared Scallops with Pinot Gris and butter reduction (seafood)
- Classic Saffron Risotto (creamy)
- Roast summer vegetable gratin with Gruyére and Chardonnay sauce (creamy)
- Roast Garlic Chicken in a Pinot Blanc reduction (chicken)
- Pan fried chicken in a mushroom and wine sauce (chicken)
Just a couple of examples, but as you can see, there’s a great deal of different kinds of dishes where cooking with white wine is an excellent option, and where it’s equally as important to make sure you find the best white wine for cooking!
Finding the best white wine for cooking
So you’ve decided your recipe, you know what you’re cooking, and you see the dreaded ingredient in the list – ‘dry white wine’ – but how do you find the best dry white wine for cooking? And how do you ensure that the wine you use, like you would with any other ingredient, doesn’t overpower or even ruin your dish?
First things first, don’t even think about using “cooking wine”. Typically, anything labelled as cooking wine is effectively the cheapest forms of wine which couldn’t be sold for any kind of human consumption as actual wine. As such, they’re loaded with salt and preservatives in order to ensure they don’t almost immediately become vinegar in order to provide them a longer shelf life than normal drinking wine.
So…what is the best white wine for cooking?
We’ve tried a couple of different wines, so you can check out our verdicts:
- Chardonnay – Not recommended, the oaking in the wine tends to become bitter when incorporated into recipes and can push the flavor profile of the dish away from your ideal
- Riesling – A good option provided you’re looking to amp up the sweetness of a dish as well as adding the wine flavor. If you’re making something with seafood, we’d say avoid.
- Sauvignon Blanc – The best white wine for cooking. A good balanced bottle between sweet and crisp, without too much sugar content, blends well into most dishes – whether chicken, seafood, or creamy.
- Pinot Gris – A close second on our list behind Sauvignon Blanc. If you can find one with a relatively mild flavor profile then it’s definitely a good option if it’s what you have available.
So there you go – our recommendation is to opt for Sauvignon Blanc if you have it, Pinot Gris if you don’t.
As with any cooking though, the most important thing to do is to taste, taste, taste. Ensure that the wine you’re using is improving the dish by giving it a try and experimenting – try one wine one time you prepare the recipe, and another the next time.
And look for feedback from those tasting the dish so you can figure out the best white wine for your cooking!