A little tipple can be the perfect addition to any meal, and for casseroles, pastas, gravies, and chocolate desserts, a full-bodied red can make all the difference.
Red wine is rich in flavour, and when cooked the liquid will reduce down to its purest form, so consider the core flavours of the wine before using it in your meal.
Here are a few of our expert tips for combining a Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chianti, or any other red you’ve picked out with a tasty treat. This is a sure-fire way to spice up any meal to impress family and friends alike.
Which wine should I pick?
Different wines have their own unique flavour profiles that will complement specific tastes. Red wine has a higher quantity of tannins, which can taste quite sharp when the wine has been reduced. If your meal has a lot of sweet elements, such as tomatoes, then combining these with a dry red can create a rich balance of flavours.
The old adage goes that red wines are for dark meats, and white is for lighter meats. While this is a good guideline, it’s not a hard-and-fast rule.
Get to grips with the basics of cooking with wine by adding a splash of red (or a little bit more – we’ll come to that later) to a Bolognese. This is a typical dish that is enhanced by red wine, and we recommend a medium-bodied red to offset the richness of the sauce. Pinot Noir is an excellent option, as this is not too heavy but also reasonably acidic, and will complement the sweetness of tomato very nicely.
Once you’ve mastered this, along with a splash of Merlot with your steak, or Cabernet Sauvignon in your Coq au Van or roast beef, you can then begin to expand the variety of dishes you add wine to, finding which combinations work best for you.
For spicy dishes, you need a wine that can hold its own amongst some complex and outstanding flavours, so look out for something heavy and full-bodied, such as a Zinfandel. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a wine to add a dynamic twist to a cream sauce, you want something a bit lighter, like a Chianti or Pinot Noir.
This same distinction between heavy and light can apply to meat, too, so if you are being experimental by choosing red wine for a pale meat, such as chicken, a lighter wine is likely to pair up better than something heavy.
The most important thing you need to consider is whether you would drink a particular wine with your meal. If the answer is yes, then there is every reason to cook it into your meal.
Dry or sweet?
Both dry and sweet red wines can complement certain dishes, and it’s all about considering the central flavour elements of the wine you choose.
Dry wines will typically favour a savoury dish, so while you’re trying out cooking your first wine-infused meals, try matching varieties like Merlot, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon with your main courses.
As always, there are exceptions to the rule, so once you’ve got used to cooking with reds, experiment with which dry wines can be used for sweet dishes. Certain meats match sweet flavours really well, so if you’re pairing pork with an apple sauce, try adding some dry red wine to the mix that has some fruity undertones.