Everyday can seem like a red-letter day when you cook chicken with red wine. But chefs themselves say you should skip red cooking wine and opt for red drinking wine instead.
The best red wine for cooking chicken is something that’s flavorful and light-bodied and has moderate to low amounts of tannins in order to fend off having a bitter-tasting chicken that also imparts a dry sensation in the mouth. Red wine meant for drinking rather than cooking is the best for the job.
Making different red wine varietals the same is that they are fermented with the skin and seeds of grapes intact.
But other than that, different red wines have different characteristics, depending on factors such as the variety of grapes used in the blend and where on the planet they were grown. And it’s due to this why you should not just grab any bottle of red wine for cooking chicken — you should get one of the best red wines for cooking chicken!
There are around 50 varietals of red wine that constantly make their presence known in today’s wine market.
Fret not because there’s no need for you to try all of them just to see which ones are superb for your chicken cooking needs. I did all the culinary experimenting for you — all you have to do is sit back, sip a glass of red wine, and enjoy this quick review of 12 of the best red wine for cooking chicken.
But first, let’s answer this pressing question many casual cooks feel too embarrassed to ask…
What Does Red Wine Do to a Chicken Recipe?
Red wine can add flavor and aroma to a chicken dish. It can add moisture and tenderness to the chicken meat, too. Red wine can be used as a marinade ingredient or added straight to the pan. Since red wine has bolder flavor profiles and more tannins than white wine, it can change a chicken dish a lot.
Both red and white wines as well as practically every color variation between the two can be used for cooking, including dishes with chicken as the star ingredient.
Certain chicken recipes call for specific types of red drinking wines.
It will all depend on whether or not their flavors and other unique characteristics specific to them will go very well with the chicken dish.
For instance, a recipe that calls for a little sweetness will likely require red wine with a fruity flavor. Or something that requires a complement to its smoky flavors will likely involve red wine with an earthy note.
Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to stick to the type of red wine the recipe calls for. However, there is always room for some experimentation, thus allowing you to serve a personalized chicken surprise.
And now, let’s get to the main part of this article: the best red wines for cooking chicken…
Top 12 Red Wines for Cooking Chicken
Double Black Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles
What makes Double Black Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles a must-have in your kitchen is that it’s a Cabernet Sauvignon varietal, which is one of the most easily recognizable red wines out there.
It has a full body with an unmistakable fruity flavor that’s so approachable. And this is why it goes well with hearty dishes with rich sauces.
True enough, chicken pasta recipes that call for a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon come aplenty! And serving a glass of Double Black Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles together with any of them is a definite mood builder.
Double Black Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles is also great for braising chicken, lending its hints of sweet spice and oak flavors into the stew and at the same time providing its tenderizing properties to the chicken meat.
Product link: Double Black Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles
Oberon Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
If a saucy chicken dish calls for some dark fruit flavors with some notes of sweet spice, chances are that what it needs is just a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Fermented in stainless steel tanks, Oberon Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 is able to seamlessly unify fruity yet slightly earthy and spicy flavors and herbaceous and mildly astringent tannins. The red wine is very good at enhancing the flavors of additional ingredients while tenderizing the chicken meat as it cooks.
Besides for stews and sauces, Oberon Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 is also excellent for grilling and roasting chicken, helping to keep the chicken meat soft and moist and tasty. Just about any braising liquid with its presence can make for an excellent glaze for the cooked chicken, thus making it look and taste awesome.
Product link: Oberon Cabernet Sauvignon
Azelia Barolo 2016
Don’t let the surprisingly delicate smell of Azelia Barolo 2016 fool you.
This red wine, which is a Nebbiolo varietal, has a full-bodied flavor with hints of cherry, raspberries and even black currant and licorice. It’s also known for its robust tannin content, which is exactly why it’s one of the best red wines for cooking all sorts of chicken dishes.
Being short of flavor should be the least of your worries each time you prepare a chicken treat with red wine. That’s because Azelia Barolo 2016 is made from grapes from up to seven different vineyards, aged for two years.
Nebbiolo is a red wine type that’s also known to be a little herbaceous, possessing hints of anise and clove. It goes without saying that it’s something that will bring out the various flavors in a chicken dish whose ingredients can benefit from the presence of a host of distinctive herby accompaniments.
Product link: Azelia Barolo
Martini Riserva Speciale Rubino
What makes Martini Riserva Speciale Rubino a very welcome addition to plenty of chicken dishes is that it has high levels of tannins. As a matter of fact, Nebbiolo, its varietal, is one of the most powerful red wines on the face of the planet in terms of acid and tannin content.
And that’s a good thing because tannins not only make the chicken meat tender as it breaks down those protein bonds but also encourage the flavor to escape as well.
Martini Riserva Speciale Rubino, just like other Nebbiolo options out there, has a bold fruity flavor. This is why it goes really well with all sorts of herby chicken recipes, from herbed roasted chicken to herbed chicken meatballs.
Product link: Martini Riserva Speciale Rubino
Two Hands Shiraz Lily’s Garden 2017
Surprisingly flavorsome could easily be the description of anyone who samples a chicken dish with Two Hands Shiraz Lily’s Garden 2017. That’s because this red wine, which is from the Shiraz varietal, has a slightly fruity and mildly peppery and spicy flavor to it, which could bring out the best in otherwise boring chicken and other meat dishes.
Needless to say, you should consider adding the product to your shopping cart if there are some tried-and-tested chicken dish recipes that could benefit from a little sprucing up.
Two Hands Shiraz Lily’s Garden 2017 is from Australia, fermented from grapes grown in the McLaren Vale region. It may be a small wine region alright, but it’s where some of the most intensely flavored Shiraz red wines in Australia come from. Cooking-wise, it’s so versatile that you can use it for experimenting with chicken recipes to make them your own.
Product link: Two Hands Shiraz Lily’s Garden
Cakebread Two Creeks Vineyards Pinot Noir 2018
Thanks to its floral notes that register as violet and rose petals to the nose, Cakebread Two Creeks Vineyards Pinot Noir 2018 is perfect for an assortment of chicken dishes with mild and delicate flavors.
It will provide the contrast necessary to balance out the saltiness of cured chicken meat, and will also work really well with ingredients working together to bring out a smoky flavor. While Pinot Noir red wines like this product are undoubtedly perfect for poultry and game birds, they also go well with salmon and various fatty types of fish.
However, Cakebread Two Creeks Vineyards Pinot Noir 2018, like its similar varietals, are much lower in tannin content. So, in other words, it’s not the best when it comes to tenderizing capabilities.
Product link: Cakebread Two Creeks Vineyards Pinot Noir
Martin Ray Pinot Noir Synthesis
It’s not uncommon for many occasional cooks to assume that red wines are reserved for exceptionally rich and heavy meat dishes. However, this is far from the truth. As a matter of fact, some red wine types go extremely well with light dishes, such as those with bright sauces as well as tossed with only a few herbs or spices.
Case in point: Martin Ray Pinot Noir Synthesis. Originating from the Sonoma County region in California, this elegant, medium-bodied red wine has a smooth and very approachable taste.
What’s really nice about Martin Ray Pinot Noir Synthesis is that you can add a lot of it in a chicken dish recipe that calls for its presence in order to tenderize the chicken meat very well but without ending up with an unintentional bold flavor. The red wine is also good for many familiar chicken dishes that could benefit from a little fancying up.
Product link: Martin Ray Pinot Noir Synthesis
Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel 2019
While there are red wine types that can be added generously to all kinds of chicken dishes because of their light flavors, there are also those that should be used sparingly only.
This is especially true for those in the Zinfandel varietal — one sip is all it will take for you to realize that they are anything but subtly flavored! And this is why a Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel 2019 will go a long, long way. In most instances, it doesn’t take more than a single splash to take a chicken dish from usual to exceptional.
Grilled chicken is something that Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel 2019 can cause to shine in particular, thanks to its dark fruit and bold and spicy flavors that are tied together with notes of mint, sarsaparilla and even tobacco.
Product link: Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel
Sextant Zinfandel Holystone Paso Robles
Because it’s a Zinfandel varietal, which is known for its particularly high acid content, it isn’t surprising why Sextant Zinfandel Holystone Paso Robles has a bold taste. This means that care must be taken each time you pour it into just about any chicken dish that could use a touch of dark fruit flavors and hints of spice, too.
Since the Gold Rush era, Zinfandel has been one of the most popular red wines in California, which is where Sextant Zinfandel Holystone Paso Robles hails from. Its vineyard is specifically located in Paso Robles, a city revered for its rich and long tradition of winemaking.
Thanks to its boldness, a dash of Sextant Zinfandel Holystone Paso Robles can keep roasted, grilled and barbecued chicken far from being boring. It’s also a welcome addition to most chicken dishes with a rich tomato-based sauce.
Product link: Sextant Zinfandel Holystone Paso Robles
Albert Bichot Moulin-a-Vent Domaine de Rochegres 2017
The Beaujolais varietal consists of wines from vineyards just south of Burgundy, which is a region known for producing high-quality and expensive grapes. And it’s for this reason why they are similar to Burgundy red wines in many ways, with the exception of the cost — many of them make for a reasonably priced drinking and cooking wine.
As a matter of fact, a 750-ml bottle of Albert Bichot Moulin-a-Vent Domaine de Rochegres 2017 costs just a little over $30 despite its delicate and elegant balance of flavors.
What Albert Bichot Moulin-a-Vent Domaine de Rochegres 2017 goes perfectly well are red meats and poultry, too. And it has a lower alcohol content than most other red wine types, which means that it will leave behind a rich ripe fruit flavor and mild floral and spicy notes the minute that its alcohol is burned off.
Product link: Albert Bichot Moulin-a-Vent Domaine de Rochegres
Jadot Beaujolais Villages
One of the nicest things about Jadot Beaujolais Villages, which is a Beaujolais varietal, is that it’s not just a delightfully versatile red drinking wine but also a surprisingly versatile red cooking wine.
While it’s the perfect replacement for Pinot Noir in a recipe, Jadot Beaujolais Villages can replace just about any other type of red wine.
Because it has a mild flavor and aroma, too, the product cooks nicely with chicken stew. But it also helps bring out the best in any chicken dish with a tomato-based sauce, light or heavy alike.
Jadot Beaujolais Villages originates from France, in particular in one of the 38 villages north of the country recognized for producing superior red wines.
Like other Beaujolais red wines, it’s made from Gamay grapes, which is a purple-colored grape variety admired for its notes of various red fruits such as strawberries, raspberries and sour cherries.
Product link: Jadot Beaujolais Villages
Oberon Merlot 2019
Merlot is a type of red wine that’s commonly used for cooking for the fact that it’s easily accessible — chances are that any liquor shop that you step foot into is carrying it.
Merlot is also popular among many seasoned chefs because of its welcoming fruit-forward flavor and silky quality that elevates many meat dishes that it’s added to.
Oberon Merlot 2019, which is from Napa Valley, California, is especially perfect for a host of pan sauces. It’s also great for reductions, which means combining it with other ingredients and bringing it to a simmer in order to make much of the water content to evaporate and leave you with a lovely, rich sauce.
The fruity flavor of Oberon Merlot 2019 balances out salt in chicken dishes. Meanwhile, its hint of an oaky note brings sophistication to an erstwhile too simple recipe.
Product link: Oberon Merlot
Just Before You Go Red Wine Shopping
That’s it — those are 12 of the best red wines for cooking chicken. With the right bottle and recipe, there are no mouths that you cannot make water and no tummy that you cannot make happy with your chicken dish.
But before you go shopping for a bottle of red wine for your chicken cooking needs, just a few quick tips:
- Avoid cooking wine. There is nothing wrong with using cooking wine for cooking chicken. After all, the name says it all — it’s wine meant for cooking. But red drinking wine is better on many levels than red cooking wine. Plus you can drink leftover red drinking wine, which cannot be said for leftover red cooking wine.
- Pick something you would drink. Speaking of which, if you like the taste of red wine, chances are that you will also love the chicken dish you will cook with it. That is why you should also use your personal preference when choosing a brand or varietal of red wine — if you love cooking with it and drinking it, too, the better!
- More expensive doesn’t mean better. Because many of red wine’s subtle characteristics will burn off anyway when used as a cooking wine, opting for an expensive bottle of it for cooking purposes isn’t necessarily the way to go. You can have a phenomenal chicken dish with a bottle of red wine with a $10 to $12 price tag.
- Know the recipe. Some red wines have fruity flavors, while others have spicy notes. And then there are also those with earthy characteristics as well as those with floral hints. Since different red wines have different flavor profiles, it’s a must that you know what you are planning to cook before you grab a bottle of red wine.
Keep these tips as well as the recommendations above in mind the next time you shop for red wine for cooking, and each of your chicken dish creations will surely be a smashing success!
Read Also: Good Burgundy Wines for Cooking