How to Make the Best Wine-Based Marinade

Using wine as a marinade is a great way to take your meals up a notch. Wines have aromas and tastes which naturally complement meats. As a bonus, wine also works as a tenderising agent which softens meat. 

First, make sure to choose a wine for the marinade which you are also happy to drink with your meal. This doesn’t mean to say that it must be expensive but you should go for good wine, avoiding cheap low quality ones. In fact, avoid "cooking wines" altogether due to their low quality, saltiness, and  overall terrible taste.

Onto the marinade ...

The base for a good marinade has four key areas of ingredients – acid, fat, spices, and herbs. The fat consists of olive oil or butter. Spices have salt as the base but other condiments can be added such as peppers and paprika. Herbs are vegetable-based ingredients such as rosemary and garlic.

To use wine as a marinade, leave your meats soaked in wine overnight. The longer you let your wine seep into the meat, the more flavorful your meat will be. This will also soften your meat, which is perfect when you’re cooking steak or ribs.

The acidic part of your marinade base is where the wine comes in. The purpose of the acidic component of the marinade is to tenderise the meat and to transmit the flavor throughout the cut. A useful guideline for your component ratios is:

  • Acid – ½ – 1 cup of wine
  • Fat – ¼ – ½ cup of oil
  • Herbs – ½ a teaspoon to 2 tablespoons
  • Salt and spices – ½ a teaspoon to 2 tablespoons

The wide range between both the herbs and the spices is due to personal preference for how intense you want your flavor to be. The amount should also be adjusted depending on how thick or wide your cut of meat is as you must ensure that the full surface area is covered.

To put your marinade together simply stir them together in a bowl until the salt has dissolved, adding your dry herbs slowly towards the end. Once you’ve formed the mixture, place your meat in an air-tight bag and leave it in the fridge. Here’s a rough guide for how long you should marinate different types of meat for:

  • Beef, lamb, and pork joints – overnight
  • Chops and steaks – three to four hours
  • Whole chicken – over four hours
  • Cuts of chicken – over two hours
  • Fish – half an hour

Cuts of red meat such as pork, beef or lamb tend to be thick and require a healthy dose of the marinade. These meats take a while to soak up the marinade so it should be marinated the day before and left in the fridge overnight. Thinner cuts shall marinate within a few hours whilst fish absorbs the marinade quickly.

But which type of wine to use?

A general rule of thumb when it comes to choosing the type of wine to marinade with is that you use red wine for red meat and white wine for chicken and fish. Red wine is a lot richer in its nature as is red meat, thus they become the perfect combination for fortifying the flavors within the cut, leaving you with the perfect meat ready for cooking.