Log In / Join Now

Ask Dr. Vinny

Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Dear Dr. Vinny,

What's the best wine to cook with? I don't want to buy cheap wine vinegar, and I want good flavors. I know Marsala is a sweeter wine cooked with chicken … at least I think so. I don’t drink wine, so I am not so sure …

—Jari, Bristol, England

Dear Jari,

My cooking-with-wine advice usually starts with this: “Don’t cook with any wine you wouldn’t drink,” but if you’re not a wine drinker, that’s not going to be very helpful.

Even if you’re not a fan of drinking wine, it's a great tool for cooking. In addition to adding its own flavors, its acidity helps break down fats and other flavor components; it's especially ideal for deglazing a pan for making sauces.

When cooking with wine, the alcohol evaporates and its core flavors are left, particularly the fruit flavors. I think fruity wines—and not wines dominated by oak—do best in cooking. That means for reds, I think an affordable Syrah, Zinfandel or Grenache with plenty of red berry and cherry flavors works best, or one of the affordable red blends that are popular these days. For a white wine, I’d pick a Sauvignon Blanc. I don’t think you’ll need to spend very much money, but once it’s open, get the most mileage you can out of the bottle by storing it in the refrigerator, even transferring it to a smaller bottle if possible. Even so, after a week or two, the wine will start to lose its bright flavors.

You specifically asked about Marsala, which is a type of fortified wine that is perhaps best known as the base for the sauce that gives the dish chicken Marsala its name. And because it’s a fortified wine (meaning a spirit has been added), an open bottle will stay good much longer than a bottle of table wine.

—Dr. Vinny

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.