When you need a dry white wine for cooking, do you freeze with confusion? Do you clutch your fruity red wine or dry marsala in fear? What does a dry white wine mean anyway?
Walk away from the cooking wine at the grocery store. It usually has a high salt content will not work the same as real wine. If you're worried about alcohol content for grandma on a million meds or your kids who don't need to start drinking just yet, don't be. First of all, the alcohol content is pretty low to start with, and it does cook off.
The high acidity in many dry white wines we use for cooking gives a flavor similar to fresh lemon juice. When cooking seafood or shellfish, poaching fish, or making steamed mussels, wine just works with seafood dishes.
A few things to remember. Should you use oaky Chardonnay or unoaked Chardonnay? Chardonnay is oaked by aging in oak barrels. Many cheaper chards are made by floating oak chips or oak staves in the juice. It's a more economical method for the winemakers but sometimes results in "oak bombs" of wine rather than balanced flavors. So while you may love drinking oaky chardonnay, don't cook with it! Oaky chard (or any oaky wines) can turn your favorite recipes bitter.
Wine can be used as part of a marinade, as a cooking liquid, or to boost the final flavor. Don't go overboard when cooking with wine. When cooking with wine, the alcohol burns off and the flavors intensify. Don't rush, because wine needs at least 10 minutes to add flavor to whatever you're cooking.
Best White Wines for Cooking
A good wine doesn't have to be a pricey wine! If you have zero wine or just don't want to crack open that bottle in case of a zombie apocalypse, you can always substitute chicken stock or vegetable stock for white wine. Even diluted apple, white grape, or lemon juice will work.
1. Sauvignon Blanc
Sauvignon Blanc can taste really different depending where it's from. A Sauvignon Blanc from Italy will taste very different than a SB from New Zealand. Sauv Blanc is most commonly used for a quick deglaze of chicken. Add some butter and fresh herbs and your pan sauce is done. Pass the linguine. California or French Sauvignon Blanc is best for cooking with flavors of citrus, apples, and pears.
Try: Josh Sauvignon Blanc (California) or Le Jardin d'Eolie Sauvignon Blanc (France)
2. Pinot Grigio
Pinot Grigio is so versatile. Grigio is floral without the perfume, with flavors of melons and apples with a crisp snap but still mellow and not overpowering. This wine is perfect for making risotto because of its neutral flavor. Pinot Grigio is kinda like tofu. It can be whatever you want it to be.
Try: Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio or Black Box Pinot Grigio (if you do a lot of cooking and/or drinking).
3. Dry Riesling
Dry Riesling will add aromatics, apple, and pear flavors. This not the first choice for dry white wines for cooking because it's mostly thought of as a sweet wine, but if you choose one with low residual sugar, it really works beautifully.
Try: Slate Mosel Riesling or splurge a little on Dr. Konstantin Frank from New York State.
4. Dry Vermouth
Dry Vermouth adds an herbal flavor to your recipe. Vermouth is a fortified wine meaning that it has a higher a higher alcohol content and that a little goes a longer way. Vermouth replaces white wine in cooking but you should use a little less. Fish, pork chops, and chicken soak up dry Vermouth's distinct flavors really well.
Try: Martini & Rossi or Noilly Pratt are classic choices
5. Unoaked Chardonnay
Unoaked Chardonnay will be crisp and bright but still have that undertone of butter and cream that makes it perfect for cooking all white meats and richer fishes like salmon. I want to be buried in a vineyard of Chardonnay.
Try: Joel Gott Unoaked Chardonnay or splurge on Mer Soleil Silver
6. White Bordeaux
White Bordeaux will be any combination of three grapes: Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle. Muscadelle is not as commonly used since it adds some sweetness. So if you ask for an inexpensive Bordeaux Blanc at your local liquor store, you're getting a crisp and dry SB with maybe some Semillon to soften the edges. Don't be afraid to go French.
Try: Chateau Mouton Cadet Bordeaux Blanc
Sercial Madeira (the driest of the four types of Madeira) is perfect for deglazing a pan of chicken, turkey, or pork chops. You'll get dry nutty flavors from this fortified wine. Again, a little goes a long way in imparting flavor in a thickened up pan sauce.
Try: Blandy's Sercial Madeira
Vermentino is a lesser known varietal in the Italian wine section. Traditionally used during the Feast of The Seven Fishes, Vermentino is perfect for poaching and steaming fish with its limey acidity.
Try: Sella & Mosca La Cala Vermentino di Sardegna
Muscadet is the place of origin and Melon de Bourgogne is the grape. You should really add "steam a boatload of mussels in Muscadet" to your bucket list. It's briny seafood's BFF in the French wine category.
Try: Domaine de l'Epinay Muscadet
10. Vinho Verde
I describe this Portuguese favorite as the Sprite of the wine world. Naturally effervescent with very bright flavors of lemon and lime. Cover a chicken or turkey breast in a saucepan with a bottle of Vinho Verde and you are set for flavor.
Try: Fonseca Twin Vines or Casal Garcia
11. Dry Sherry
Dry Sherry is a fortified wine with higher alcohol and depth of flavor. Deglaze a pan with just a little bit of dry sherry. You'll get a flavor similar to a dry hard cider with a tingly acidity.
Try: Taylor Dry Sherry is a standard choice in kitchens everywhere
Sparkling wine for cooking? Damn Right! As long as you like the flavor of the brut (dry) sparkling that you've got, the bubbles are a non issue. Just make sure it's dry. Pro Tip: Sparking wines labeled Extra Dry are actually sweeter than Brut. I know, it makes no sense.
Try: Ca' Furlan Prosecco Cuvee Beatrice or Riondo Prosecco
A Sauce Recipe To Get You Started With Dry White Wine For Cooking
Make this easy beurre blanc cream sauce to impress your family. Cook shallots in white wine vinegar and/or white wine until boiling, then reduce for at least 30 minutes to bring the liquid way down. Start quickly whisking in COLD butter cube by cube. Take your time to get that velvety consistency, taking it off the heat towards the end of the whisking.