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Wine Down Friday: How do I choose a wine for cooking?

As a food editor, one of the most common questions I hear about wine is "What is the best wine for cooking?" With so many types of wines out there, it's easy to understand why it's tough to choose.

What does dry red/dry white mean? When a recipe calls for a dry wine, look for a wine that is not sweet.

For a dry red, I tend to reach for one that has light to moderate tannins and is well balanced with fruit and astringency, like a cabernet sauvignon or a pinot noir. For hearty dishes, like beef or lamb stews, a Burgundy or zinfandel works as well.

For a dry white, sauvignon blanc is a good all-around workhorse. It has a good mixture of herb and citrus flavors to play nicely with delicate flavors like white fish or spring vegetables and enough creaminess to complement a chicken dish.

Do I really need to buy an expensive bottle? You might hear people say, "Never cook with a wine you wouldn't drink." It's true—to an extent. Although you don't want to cook with a poor quality wine, there's no need to get spendy either. There are many good options between $10-20.

What about cooking wines? Halt. Stop. Don't buy them. Cooking wines often contain extra sodium and are lower in alcohol and are not an equal substitute.