How Do I Choose the Best Red Wine Marinade?

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  • Written By: Cynde Gregory
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 29 August 2019
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Even some experienced cooks consider red wine fine with red meat, pork, and some chicken dishes but too hearty for chicken breasts or fish. It’s true that red wine marinade is especially wonderful with steaks and chops, but it can be a versatile way to perk up the taste of blander foods as well as long as the ingredients in the marinade don’t overwhelm. The best red wine marinade depends in large part upon the type of food it will soak as well as upon your own personal flavor preferences.

A vigorous red wine marinade serves any cut of beef equally well. Beef, even expensive cuts, has a higher amount of collagen than other types of meat. This means a good, long soak, even overnight, is appropriate. The easiest way to go is simply with a little red wine, some oil, a garlic clove or two, and a handful of herbs. Some cooks like to brighten the flavors with a squirt or two of lemon.

Additions such as onion, steak sauce, soy sauce, and mustard create a more complex and flavorful marinade. Cumin and coriander work especially well with this one. Adding hoisin sauce nicely complements the other flavors.


A terrific marinade for chicken combines both red wine and red wine vinegar together with high-quality olive oil. Rosemary is the only herb for this marinade, and adding several cloves of garlic creates depth of flavor. As chicken doesn’t require as much tenderization as red meat, a swim of three or four hours is usually sufficient to produce moist, succulent chicken brimming with flavor.

Citrusy grilled chicken is a cinch if it’s marinated in a light-bodied wine with the addition of lime, lemon, or orange juice. The clever cook can experiment with a mixture of juices or even with fresh fruit, such as a pulverized peach. A simple salad oil is recommended with this marinade, and ginger adds a little zing. Herbs are always welcome here as well.

Fish such as salmon also responds well to red wine marinade as long as the swim time is limited to around half an hour. It’s not necessary to include oil because salmon has plenty of it naturally, but it does help the fish keep from sticking to the grill. A light-bodied red wine works best here along with some minced onion, garlic, and ginger. Thyme is the perfect herb for this marinade. Heating it gently for a few minutes in a sauce pan helps the flavors mingle, although you should cook it before the fish is added.



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