What is the difference between cooking wine and wine you drink?

What is the difference between cooking wine and wine you drink?

By Beth P. Heiserman


This week, I had a customer ask is there a difference between a cooking a wine and wine that is called for in a recipe. The answer is yes and no. It depends upon the wine that is part of the recipe. But for the most part, the main difference is the quality of wine. Drinking wine is a much better quality. Cooking with a drinking wine will give you a better dish because the wine contributes its quality and complexity to create a masterpiece versus an everyday dish. I only use what I would drink.

Now, if the wine is a few days old, it is still okay to cook with it. I would use corked wine for cooking because the wine fault will lead to a strange taste. If the wine tastes like a wet dog, do you really want your meal to taste like a wet dog? Think about that also for the quality, if the wine makes you think you are a wine snob when you turn your nose up when you smell or taste the wine, then why would you want your dish to have that in it? I wouldn’t!

Sometimes, in recipes, depending on the cuisine you will see different types of wine as an ingredient. Asian will ask for Mirin (Japanese rice wine), Sake or rice wine (Chinese). Yet, rice wine really isn’t wine. It really calls for rice wine vinegar. Its to add acidity to a dish.

Some recipes mention Marsala, Sherry, Sauternes too! Marsala, Madeira, sherry and vermouth and dry oxidized wines that are perfect for gravies or sauces like a Marsala cream sauce on top of chicken. Sauternes are sweeter wines like Riesling or Muscat. Here is a recipe for my Quinoa salad that is always requested. It uses Muscat, a semi-sweet wine to compliment this tasty salad.

Reyes 2011 Muscat Quinoa Salad

By Beth P. Heiserman

This is a great gluten free and vegan option. At our monthly “hike and brunches”, I always have a gluten free and vegetarian/vegan option. Many people who join us on the hike are very health conscience. Quinoa can be enjoyed at any meal, from breakfast to dessert. I have prepared it in place of oatmeal to rice pudding. You can serve this salad either warm or cold. This salad is high in protein and fiber.



1¼ cup vegetable broth

¾ cup Reyes 2011 Muscat
1 cup quinoa

2 cups broccoli, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups red and yellow teardrop tomatoes or grape tomatoes, halved
1 red onion, chopped into 1” chunks

2 tsp olive oil

1 tsp salt, kosher

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp parsley, dried


Vinaigrette ingredients


¼ cup olive oil

¼  cup white balsamic vinegar

¼ cup Reyes 2011 Muscat

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Juice of 1 lemon

½ tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

2 cloves of garlic


  1. In medium sauce pan, sauté red onions, garlic with olive oil. Sprinkle half the salt and pepper on the onions. This will help to sweat the onions.
  2. Combine broccoli, broth, 2011 Reyes Muscat and quinoa in a saucepan; bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low, place a cover on the saucepan, and cook at a simmer until the broth has been absorbed and the quinoa is tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. While quinoa is cooking, prepare the vinaigrette. In a blender add vinaigrette ingredients and blend.
  5.  Stir in tomatoes and parsley with the vinaigrette into the quinoa, replace the lid, 2 to 3 minutes; season with remaining red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
  6. Serve. Bon appétit!