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About Red Wine

Red wine can only be made from black-skinned aka “red” grapes. The juice of all grapes is clear, so red wine gets its color after fermenting that juice in contact with its pigmented grape skins for several days. The thicker the skins, the darker the color, so a thin-skinned grape like Pinot Noir will typically create a paler wine than a thick-skinned grape like Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

In addition to pigment, grape skins impart tannin - another unique characteristic of red wines. Tannins are a natural compound that creates an astringent, drying sensation in red wines (think about drinking a strong pot of tea). More importantly, tannins give red wines their ability to age, and their ability to cut through the richness of red meat.  Lighter dishes, like fish, can also be paired with red wines, provided they have relatively low levels of tannin. As with pigment, the thickness of the skins themselves usually determines the level of tannin.

The Best Wines for Cooking and How to Use Them

Wine is indispensable in the kitchen. It adds complexity to dishes that water or broth can’t (try making coq à l’eau and get back to us). First things first: you shouldn’t cook with wine you wouldn’t drink with your meal, but your selection doesn’t need to break the bank, either.

Most good-quality wines work for cooking, but there are some things to avoid. Sweet wine may be called for in specific dishes but won’t suit the vast majority of recipes. Cooking wine concentrates its sugars, making reds “jammy” and off-dry whites taste syrupy and imbalanced. Heavily oaked wines should also be avoided since oakiness can become bitter and awkward during cooking. And wines that are extremely full-bodied can overwhelm a dish as it reduces in the pan.