When picking out a cooking wine to enhance and intensify the flavor of your food, always get the one you would like to drink. According to the Global Gourmet website, you must avoid wines labeled as “Cooking Wine” since most are overpriced, poor quality and have added salt in them. Instead, buy a good quality regular drinking wine. Which wine to choose largely depends on the type of cuisine; for instance, grape wines are best for European dishes while rice wines are good for Asian dishes.
During fermentation, the skins of grapes are left on to give color to red wine. Meat dishes containing beef, lamb or veal often require young full-bodied red wine. For instance, Cabernet Sauvignon is a highly tannic wine suitable for giving a rich flavor to meat and making it tender. Young robust red wine like Chianti is mainly used to make red sauces. The suitable choice for cooking soups with root vegetables or beef stock is earthly full-bodied wine. Dry red wine is a good choice for many recipes. Consider using traditional wine for regional dishes such as Italian wine for Italian recipes or French wine for French dishes. Some other red wines suitable for cooking include Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel.
The skins of grapes are taken off to produce colorless white wine. White wine is usually added to recipes containing chicken, vegetables and seafood. The major types of white wine are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc Riesling, Pinot Gris, Viognier and Gewürztraminer. White wine has plenty of alcohol content and no extra sweetness so you don't have to worry about losing the ingredients' natural taste to wine’s sweetness. Dry white wine is good to use for cooking seafood soups, bouillabaisse or cream sauces and sweet white wine is good in desserts. Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay are commonly used in marinating, sauteing or making sauces for seafood and chicken.
Rice wine is made from the fermentation of rice starch that is converted into sugar. It is used in cooking Chinese and Japanese food to add flavor to sauces, and act as acid in marinades. Japanese chefs use Sake (dry wine) and Mirin (sweet wine) for cooking. Shaoxing and Huangjiu rice wine are required in cooking Chinese food. These wines are gaining popularity in Western dishes as well to complement beef and seafood.
Fortified wine is added to develop intense flavor, which may vary from dry to sweet. The categories of fortified wine are Madeira, Marsala, Sherry, Port and Vermouth. Madeira is often used in French food to make sauces and marinades for pork and chicken. Italian cooking often uses Marsala in sauces and desserts like tiramisu. Port is a sweet fortified wine suitable for fruit dishes and desserts. Fruit desserts having herbs may require sweet Vermouth to make a great addition. Make sure you choose the correct category appropriate for the dish, since fortified wines develop strong flavor.