What kind of shaoxing wine should I be looking to buy? My supermarket has shaohsing rice cooking wine which has salt added. After looking online, there seem to be people saying that the added salt is to get around selling it without the need for a liquor license and that it is similar to other cooking wines. I am also worried that the extra salt may ruin the recipes I find online.
All the other information presented here is correct and the main problem is liquor licenses. I use the salted variety often out of convenience and price, but it is a lower quality and well, heavily salted. Typically, if I'm using the wine, I'll just reduce salt elsewhere.
If you can't find an unsalted variety and really want something that works well, as an alternate suggestion you can use a dry sherry. It will usually be cheaper than a proper bottle of unsalted shaoxing wine. Note that sherry will also come in salted, cooking varieties and similarly you don't want those.
If you live in an area where the liquor licenses aren't a problem, I hear good things about the Pagoda brand.
Unless you use everything that can be a salt source (soy sauces, fermented whatever pastes, black beans and sauces, chili-garlic-sauces, stocks, pickled chilies and vegetables...) in a chinese style dish by the exact brands and amounts the recipe writer used, you will have to manage the salt (and acid/sugar) balance yourself anyway. If you need to replicate such a dish blindly... then indeed, recipe with exact brands needed.
Availability of unsalted rice wines (they come in light and dark varieties too) will be dependent on locality (licensing laws), if the local asian grocers cannot carry it you might want to ask a liquor merchant to order it for you if he does not have it in store. In any case, expect it to be 2-6x more expensive than the salted variety, even if available off the shelf.