Tips For Storing And Using Leftover Wine

I trust you had your fill of turkey this past week and are probably still having some this week. There are dozens if not hundreds of recipes for leftover turkey.

But what about leftover wine? What can you do with that?

Here are my best suggestions for any unfinished bottles of wine you may still have in your refrigerator.

* If you still plan to drink it, make sure you are at least putting it in the refrigerator with the cork in it. The cold temperature helps to slow down the oxidative process, which causes loss of fruit flavor in the wine. This will only help you keep the wine for a day or two at best. Better yet, spray a little “Private Preserve” in the bottle. This is a spray bottle of inert nitrogen that blankets the wine, keeping oxygen away from it. This keeps the wine better for maybe four to five days. Throw away that vacuum pump thing and don’t even think about giving it as a gift for Christmas. It doesn’t extend the life of the wine by one drop. The key is keeping oxygen away from the wine.

* Once it’s past the point of drinkability, use it for cooking. There are some great recipes that call for wine. I know you chefs out there will say “if you can’t drink it, don’t put it in the food.” But there are many chemical properties that are still bound in the wine that are needed for a dish, like the acidity, sweetness, tannin as well as the alcohol (which will burn off) – Beef Bourguignon, spaghetti sauce, beurre blanc sauce, bouillabaisse and more.

* You can use leftover sweet wines for granitas. Boil off the alcohol and reduce to make a sweet, syrupy base for a frozen treat. Make sure to adjust the amount of sugar you use according to the recipe, since there is already sweetness from the wine. I remember working in the restaurant kitchen and making Riesling granitas that were awesome! Then you can add some alcohol like rum or vodka back to it to “kick it up a notch.”

* Make vinegar with it. Yes, you heard me right. I know it sounds sacrilegious coming from a wine guy. But I am quite practical. If the wine is “gone,” I mean completely undrinkable, you can always turn it into its alter ego. You have to start with some vinegar mother obviously, as most wines will not just turn into vinegar on their own unless the bacteria is already present in the wine (which is not a good thing) or it is introduced. There are several good websites that show how to start it up. The best thing about it is that the vinegar you make at home with your leftover wine will taste much better than the ones you normally buy from the grocery store with the exception of genuine aceto balsamico (balsamic vinegar). The different wines you put into it result in a complexity of flavor that you will not believe. I had one from a friend who lived on the Big Island, and it was terrific. I told him he should bottle it and sell it.

Recommendations: 2008 Vineyard 7 & 8 Chardonnay ($55) If you want a full-throttle Napa Valley Chardonnay experience, this is it. Copious amounts of fruit, sweet vanilla and tropical nuances explode on your palate. 2008 Mobius Cabernet Sauvignon ($20) Luxurious blackberry and blueberry notes meld in harmony with vanilla accents and a completely velvety texture. Terrific value!

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