How to pick a wine to cook with

If you’re a mediocre cook, cooking with wine is maybe the single easiest thing you can do to make yourself look 100 times more impressive. Making pasta with butter and cheese again?

Why not add some white wine to that butter, Mr. Rockefeller? If you’re roasting a pork loin, why not use some wine to make a gravy with those pan drippings? There are tons of options, but of course they all raise the question–what the hell wine do you use?

If your wine-buying technique is something like “cheap + cool label = getting drunk,” paying attention to pairing flavors and wine types might be a little daunting. Or, there’s that chaotic moment when you see your recipe gives the oh-so helpful “dry white wine” (or even worse, just “white wine”) as the only instruction of what you should be looking for. And until the people writing recipes decide to be a little more descriptive, you’re stuck staring at that box of Franzia in your fridge wondering if anyone will notice.

Chef Tony Chittum of Iron Gate in Washington DC, says the best thing you can do is just choose a wine you normally enjoy drinking, “because chances are, you won’t be using the whole bottle. Flavors are intensified when reduced, so be careful of overly sweet, peppery, acidic wines.”