Best Red Wine for Cooking Beef: Our Best Cooking Wine Guide

What if it’s too sweet? Or too sour? What if I put too much wine in my beef casserole? Is there such a thing as too much wine?

Luckily for you, we have all the answers you need (especially to the last question, in which case the answer is an astounding NO).

From cooking steak to a beef roast, a beef casserole to a bolognese - we’ve got you covered. Here are the best cooking wines for beef! 


Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, California Red Wine, 750 mL Bottle

Our top pick is the Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is made in California, which is one of the best states for red wine. This Cabernet Sauvignon is the most popular first drink made by the Josh Cellars company, and stands out for its high-quality taste and make.

Cabernet Sauvignons are one of the best cooking wines with seasoned beef as well as chocolate desserts. This particular wine is rich in blackberry, cinnamon, toasted hazelnut, vanilla, and toasted oak flavorings. The flavors also make the wine a popular festive beverage choice.

Josh Cellars is a reputable wine company that was created in 2007 by the son of Josh Carr, who wanted to honor his late father and his love for wine.

Made throughout California, including Napa and Mendocino counties, the ingredients are locally sourced and made through complete love, expertise, and quality.

Not only is this wine suitable for drinking alone, but it is also great for pairing with roast beef and other beef-based meals. It has a smooth texture and is easy to drink.

Recommended Recipes


  • California-based - Made from a reputable wine company in California counties from locally-sourced ingredients
  • Versatile - Best for well-seasoned roast beef meals. Also used for chocolate desserts, lamb, pork, and plain drinking
  • Delicious flavors - Wine features hints of blackberry, cinnamon, vanilla, and other flavors to create a rich yet light taste


  • Cork opening - Will need to be consumed within 24-48 hours to make use of flavors


Mark West Pinot Noir, Red Wine, 750 mL Bottle

This Pinot Noir is most ideal for tomato-based sauces - which is great for a beef bolognese sauce. Made in California from California’s own finest vineyards, this wine features a punch of powerful flavors ranging from plum, black cherry, and strawberry.

This is a medium-bodied wine, meaning it has lower levels of alcohol with minimal sugar content. This is ideal for a Bolognese sauce, as the wine will add a rich flavor to allow the user to sweeten the sauce to taste with other ingredients.

This also means that the wine has little tannin content, which is better suited for tomato-based sauces with beef rather than roast beef or steak. This wine can be used with salmon, other light tomato sauces, or roast pork for a gentle, rich kick.

The ingredients for this wine are sourced directly from Californian vineyards, so you will be supporting local or national goods from one of the best states for red wine.

As well as the fruity flavors, this wine was aged in French oak before it was bottled - ideal for enhancing the meaty flavors from the beef.

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  • Ideal for tomato sauces - Medium-bodied wine offers low-tannin content which is best suited for tomato sauces, including Bolognese sauce
  • Californian ingredients - Ingredients are sourced from the finest vineyards in California to support local/national goods
  • Medium-bodied - Medium-bodied also means the alcohol and sugar levels are low, which is ideal for providing a gentle flavor in foods


  • Not the strongest wine - Low-alcohol content is not suited for other beef meals that may require stronger wines (roast beef, steak, etc.)


Crucible Wines, Red Blend California, 750 mL

The general rule of thumb for cooking beef with wine is to cook with whatever wine you enjoy the most - and preferably one that will accompany the meal in a glass. If you enjoy fruity red wines, you will enjoy this wine.

The Crucible Wines Red Blend offers a lovely blend of dark cherry and plum, mixed with a hint of sweetness from a vanilla flavoring.

Whilst this might sound strange for a beef meal, fruity red wines work beautifully with cooking meat in garlic. Depending on whether you enjoy fruity red wines or not, this can be wonderful to cook steak.

This wine offers a subtle aroma of black pepper, which is what makes it so popular to cook with. Of course, your beef should be seasoned regardless, but the black pepper aroma will enhance those flavors and seasonings.

What’s more, this wine features a medium tannin content that exemplifies those rich, fruity flavors.

Recommended Recipes

  • Steak cooked in garlic
  • Bolognese sauce
  • Beef stew


  • Fruity wine - Fruity red wine enhances beef cooked with garlic 
  • Medium tannin content - Tannins enhance the rich, fruity flavors that offer a strong kick
  • Not too dry, not too sweet - Somewhere in the middle of dry and sweet, making it versatile for an array of beef meals


  • Fruit flavors won’t be favored by everyone - Some will not enjoy a fruity red wine, so they won’t benefit from cooking with it


Justin Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, 750mL

Cabernet Sauvignons are one of the more versatile red wines for cooking a variety of beef meals. This wine is no exception.

Aged for 14 months in an oak barrel, this wine offers a flavorsome addition to cooking steak, beef stew, sauce, roast beef, and more.

This wine is almost full-bodied, which offers a rich palette of black fruits including cherries, baking spices, a hint of cocoa, and earthy flavors including oak from the barrel it aged in.

These flavors are ideal for enhancing beef meals that require a rich taste, or even for ones that just require a splash of wine to bring out the flavors.

Whether you want to make a Philly cheesesteak sandwich or accompany a beautiful red wine gravy for a roast dinner, this is an ideal wine for any beef-related situation.

Recommended Recipes

  • Roast beef
  • Beef stew/casserole
  • Steak
  • Philly cheesesteak
  • Red wine gravy


  • Versatile for beef meals - Rich flavors can be used in a variety of beef meals to enhance the red meat flavors
  • Nearly full-bodied - Aged for 14 months in an American oak barrel to provide rich flavors and an earthy nose in a dry wine
  • High-quality - Made in California with exquisite ingredients to create beautiful flavors


  • Price - The most expensive wine on our list


Catena Malbec, Red Wine, 750 mL Bottle

Malbec wine is one of the most popular wines for cooking beef. The Catena Malbec stands out on the market as it is so ideal for grilled steak - either as a sauce or to cook the steak in.

Steak can often be bland and chewy (depending on the quality of the meat), but a drizzle of malbec can help to bring out those rich flavors that can only be tasted in restaurants.

This is an Argentinian Malbec that offers a plush texture with a variety of flavors. Made in Mendoza, this wine is sourced from four Argentinian vineyards at a variety of elevations to provide a range of microclimate flavors from high altitudes.

The aromas are deep and rich, with smells of dark red fruits and hints of mocha amongst others. Depending on how much is used in a beef meal, this wine is also suitable for a red wine gravy, sauce for pasta, or salmon.

Recommended Recipes

  • Juicy grilled steak
  • Red wine gravy


  • Ideal for grilled steak - Malbec brings out flavors of grilled red meat to offer a rich, meaty taste 
  • High-quality - Made in Argentina with sourced ingredients from four microclimates to offer the most all-rounder Malbec
  • Beautiful aroma - Scents of dark fruits, mocha, and vanilla help to enhance the flavors of the meat


  • Not made in America - Argentinian wine is not made in the USA for those who prefer to buy local/national wine

Best Cooking Wines for Beef Buying Guide

What to Look for in a Cooking Wine for Beef

If you are a newbie when it comes to cooking wine with beef, you’ve come to the right place for wine-buying tips.

If you’re a wine connoisseur who wants to branch out for the wines you already use, you have also come to the right place!

Our top tip is to go for the wines you enjoy. There is no point cooking with a red wine that you find utterly disgusting when you drink it alone.

Of course, the wine won’t be a standout ingredient in a beef meal as wine is designed to enhance flavors, but it might be the difference between a meal you sort of enjoy and a meal you love.

As people are more likely to accompany their meal with a glass of wine (legally, of course), you should probably drink the wine you enjoy rather than one that sounds better than it tastes, right?

Another tip we have is to use high-quality wine. Not all high-quality wines are super expensive, so don’t assume that higher-priced wines will be better! Of course, if your taste buds naturally prefer low-quality wines, this is fine.

However, if you’re looking to enhance your beef meals to mimic restaurant-quality food, high-quality wines are the best option.

If you’re looking for a wine specifically for cooking beef, we recommend going for young wines. These wines will not have been aged for long and are only a few years old.

They will offer a moderate amount of tannins and lovely fruity flavors, which is great for complimenting beef.

Types of Red Wine

There are a multitude of red wines available, but here are the most popular ones for cooking with beef:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon - This is considered one of the most “serious” wines by wine lovers. Cabernet Sauvignon is dry, savory, and high in acidity. This is the best wine for cooking a variety of red meat dishes. 
  • Malbec - Malbec is right in the middle between dry and fruity wines. It is somewhat an all-rounder in the red wine world and is generally liked by everyone. Not only is it tasty alone, but it goes wonderfully with red meat meals such as bolognese. 
  • Merlot - Merlot, in the simplest of terms, is a fruitier version of a Malbec. For this reason, this wine is less popular for red meat meals that go better with savory wines. 
  • Pinot Noir - Pinot Noir is notorious for being difficult to make. This wine offers a lovely balance between dry and fruity, and also comes with hints of herbal and earthy flavors. Depending on what it ages in, the wine might have an essence of oak or tobacco. Burgundy wine is made with Pinot Noir grapes and is more of a dry red wine.

Wine Terminology

For wine beginners, it can be difficult to understand the terminology without rushing to Google to look for translations.

You might not want to come across as “naïve” when it comes to asking questions - you just want to know what tastes good and what doesn’t.

Fortunately for you, nobody is going to judge you for looking up wine terminology. Whether you’re looking for terminology explanations, or you want to impress your friends at your next dinner party - here’s wine terminology (for dummies).

  • Varietal - Varietal wines are made from one type of grape variety. Some varietal wines include Pinot Noir, Merlot, Chardonnay, and some Cabernet Sauvignons. 
  • Wine Blends - These are wines that are made from more than one grape variety. This includes Red Bordeaux, Port, and Meritage. 
  • Color - You’re probably thinking “isn’t it just a matter of white or red wine?”. To some extent, you are right. However, the color of a wine can determine the types of flavors or aromas that the wine might have. Experts will swivel this around a glass to inspect the different colors in a wine. For example, some red wines will show hints of pink, brown, or purple hues. 
  • Aroma / Nose - This refers to, you guessed it, what the wine smells like. Beginners may struggle with this as most red wines mostly smell alike, however, experts can determine the type of wine and the taste of wine by its scent alone. Like with the color of wine, this will all come with practice!
  • Tannins - Tannins come from the grapes and fruits that are squeezed to make wine. Young wines will have the lowest tannin count, as they haven’t been pressed as long as older wines. The tannins can provide different textures depending on the wine. Wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon are high in tannins (also called tannic), which is why it is characteristically dry and can be aged well.

Why to Cook Beef With Wine

Wine is an awesome key ingredient in beef dinners. The alcohol content in wines helps to bring out flavor molecules in beef and other foods that are accompanied with the beef - such as garlic or onions. It also helps to break down and dissolve fats, which is great for those wanting to eat beef whilst on a diet.

The alcohol must be cooked off when you add wine to a sauce to prevent the alcoholic taste. Remember - wine is meant to enhance the flavors of the food, not overpower them!

We love to slow-cook red wine in a beef stew to allow sufficient time for the alcohol to burn off - plus it helps to break up cheap beef so it’s less chewy.

The rule of thumb for cooking wine with beef is to pair flavors together. Rich meats should go with rich wines, and sweet meat-based meals should go with sweet wines.

Bolognese and other tomato-based meals, for example, benefit most from fruit wines as they complement tomatoes the best. Grilled beef should be paired with rich wines that are high in tannins such as Shiraz.

Wine actually offers an array of health benefits. The occasional glass of red wine provides antioxidants that can protect the heart against inflammation and disease. Whilst some may have heard this about white wine, red wine holds more antioxidants.

Red wine is also said to be a preventative against some cancers and has anti-aging properties. Great excuse to drink it - and the same goes for eating food that includes wine!


Is Merlot or Shiraz better for cooking?

Shiraz is better for cooking with red meat, whilst Merlot can be used with any food. This is because Shiraz has a higher tannin count than Merlot and is darker in color, which is generally more ideal for cooking red meat.

Merlot is softer and more ideal for sauces, other meats such as pork, and cooking with fish.

What can I substitute for red wine in beef stew?

If you choose to not include red wine in your food, or perhaps you don’t have a bottle available, there are some substitutes for red wine in a beef stew.

Broth is the best substitute for a beef stew and it works to enhance the flavors of the red meat. Beef broth is designed specifically for beef, so it only makes sense to use more broth instead of red wine.

Red grape juice is great for those who prefer a sweet kick in a beef stew. Tomatoes and tomato paste can offer more acidity and richer color. If those don’t appeal to you, you can always use non-alcoholic red wine! Just make sure you get 100% alcohol-free wine, as some bottles can include a small amount of alcohol.

Can kids eat food cooked with wine?

As long as the alcohol has been reduced during the cooking time, kids can eat food cooked with wine. This alcohol burns off whilst it cooks, so little to no alcoholic content remains.

Even if the food does have an alcohol content, it won’t be enough to make a child drunk in any way. Cooking wine is all about enhancing the flavor of food.

How long does it take for wine to reduce?

It usually takes between 15 and 30 minutes for the wine to reduce whilst cooking. This should be on a simmer because turning up the heat on a stove can over-reduce the wine and even make the food taste bitter. 

Don't count out marsala or another fortified wine. A dry white wine can be great to cook with particularly if you need pan sauce for your savory dish. White cooking wine is very useful for a cream sauce. I've always enjoyed a good Riesling.

Flavorful Marsala wine substitutes that don’t compromise on taste

Best Red Wine for Cooking Beef: Our Best Cooking Wine Guide

These options are sure to be a hit. So, gather your family and friends and enjoy. Let us know your thoughts!
5 from 2 votes


  • Josh Cellars 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Mark West Pinot Noir
  • Crucible Wines Red Blend California
  • Justin Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Catena Malbec


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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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