“The cookbook says to add some leftover wine, but what the hell is leftover wine?”

Have you heard of this quote before? It’s quite funny actually. But it got me thinking. We really don’t talk a lot about left over wine. Do we assume that we see the bottom of the bottle every time we open it up? We probably do, but that’s unfortunately not the case all the time.

I could only find some limited information about how much wine we actually pour down the sink. According a report published in 2010 by a British supermarket chain, in UK the consumers pour down around 50 million liters of wine every year. A more recent information was from 2017, from a wine merchant in UK.  They stated that 624 million of bottles of wine are thrown down the sink. What does that mean? Almost two full glasses of wine a week is thrown away in a household. This is quite significant.

When we look at the US, according to the estimations of a private company, wine valued over $1.27 million is poured down the drain at homes. The number increases until $1.5 billion when the wastage in the bars and restaurants are added. The amount of wine wasted at the restaurants also took attention of researchers in the Netherlands, and different solutions were investigated to decrease this wastage.

Coming back to our homes, can we decrease wasting wine here? We definitely can. Our decisions at home around the way we consume and store the wine can really make a difference.

Choose wisely

First thing first, let’s talk about packaging size. Nowadays, there are so many innovations in the wine packaging, you can find wine bottles of diverse materials, shapes and sizes. All of us have different lifestyles, and these bottles allow us to find something suitable to fit ours. If you just want to enjoy a glass of wine that evening, but you are alone, you can find wines in single serving packages. Still or sparkling, white, red or rosé, all types of wines and even some of the premium wines are available for us to enjoy by our own.

How about when we organize a dinner with friends? In those lovely occasions, it’s great idea to calculate how much wine you’ll be serving to avoid any left-over. Typically, a bottle of wine serves to 5 people, with a standard drink size of 150 ml. But if you’ll serve different wines with different courses, you may end up opening more bottles. In those cases, offer your friends to share the left-over wine and take some with them to enjoy the next days. (Or make sure to read the “be creative” part of this post.) 

One last thing to keep in mind, never force anyone to finish their wines or pour more wine into their glasses without their permission. Everybody knows how much wine they can have at that moment, and how much their body can handle, so we should respect that – even though it means we’ll have some left-over wine.

Store it well after opening

Even though we calculate and buy the exact amount of wine we needed, there can always be changes in the plan and we may find ourselves with a bottle half full of wine.  There comes the question: How and for how long we can keep a bottle after opening it? It varies from wine to wine, but the enemy is oxygen for all. So, tapping back the cork or closing with the screw cap is a start, but if you have a vacuum wine sealer, that’s even better. There are also inert gas systems that offer good preservation. Decreasing the amount of oxygen in contact with wine helps us extend its short life after opening. For white, rosé wines and light red wines, we really want to keep them on the fridge, while medium and full-bodied red wines prefer to stay out in room temperature.

Sparkling wine? Pop it up, pour it in your glass, and immediately close it with a sparkling wine stopper. You’ll avoid losing the bubbles. With this strategy, you can still have bubbles even days after the opening.  

But how long we can actually keep them in the bottle after the opening? There are some straightforward answers from 3 days to a week depending on the type of the wine, but best answer is to examine the wine to understand if went bad. First, check the color. Does it have the same color it had once you open it? If it’s oxidized, you’ll have a darker color in your white wine, and lighter in your red. Sometimes, it’s also possible to have some re-fermentation. You’ll hear a pop sound when you open the bottle again, and in some cases, you can even see the bubbles. There’s nothing to worry about it, wine is a living thing and it continues to evolve even in our kitchens. After the visual examination, smell the wine to catch if any unusual aromas, such as vinegar or nail polish, have evolved. If not, take a sip to taste. Although we are not expecting the quality it had after the first opening, be your own judge to understand how it evolved, and if you’d still be enjoying drinking a glass of it. When in doubt, be creative and use the wine in another way.

Be creative

All things considered, nobody has to feel obliged to drink more wine just to finish the bottle. There are so many different things you can cook with the left-over wine. Let me share you my recipes that I’m using when I end up with some left-over wine:

  1. Drunken Pear

Light, fresh, and shiny… This is how drunken pears end up on the plate.  It’s quite easy to make: Mix the left-over red wine on a saucepan with some sugar to your taste. You can also add some spices such as cloves, anise or orange zest. Keep it on medium heat stirring until sugar and spices mix well into wine, and then place the peeled pears in. Try to submerge all the pear from bottom till the top, so it has a homogenous red color. Let is simmer until the pears are red and soft to your taste.

You can serve it warm, or after cooling an hour in the fridge. If you want to put a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or some whipped cream on the side, nobody can stop you.

Wait, there’s still left-over wine in the pot: Don’t throw that neither! Let’s meet in the number two.

2. Wine jelly

Once you take out the pears from the saucepan, you end up with a wine syrup. This aromatic syrup makes a great base for jelly. I use a sachet of powder gelatin to set it up in small cups following instructions on the package, let it set for a while in the fridge. You can also use a bigger recipient to set it, and then cut into small cubes. It’s a nice way to finish a heavy meal or enjoy as a snack.

3. Wine Marination and Sauces

If you regularly end up with unfinished wine bottles, you don’t need to buy “cooking wine”. Just keep the wines in a sealed bottle and use it whenever you are cooking. Marinates and sauces for meat are always upgraded with addition of some wine.

4. Onion confit with wine

Onion lovers as myself will be very happy with this one. Thinly sliced onions go into the pan with lots of butter and stay there at low temperature until they are soft. This is a slow process where onions leave their juice and sugar in. Some might add extra sugar to make it shorter, but I don’t. If you have time, try the slow version and you’ll be amazed how much sugar there is in the onion. Then the wine comes in, it could be red, white or rosé, but my preference is red here, as it gives an appetizing color. I add the left-over red wine and let them simmer for 40-50 minutes until it’s reduced. Again, it’s a slow process but it’s totally wort it. This onion confit makes a great element to add on top of canapés, my favorite is rye bread with goat cheese, fresh thyme and onion confit. With its dense wine flavor, it makes great companion of wine.  

5. Mulled wine

During winter, mulled wine is always a great idea. With juicy fruits such as oranges and apples, and some warming spices as cinnamon, anise and ginger, you can give a second life to your left-over wine.

If you’re searching a low alcohol beverage, mulled wine can be an option, because while you prepare it you have the possibility to decrease the alcohol content of the wine. In the recipe that I shared previously, I made a point to heat the wine slowly, and take away from the stove once it boils. This will avoid losing alcohol so much, but if you want to decrease your alcohol level, just boil it for a while so your alcohol evaporates. Maybe you’ll not have the burning sensation of alcohol, but you’ll definitely have so many layers of flavors that provide heat.

6. Red wine hot chocolate

Another winter delight, this time with chocolate. I was totally amazed first time I found out that you can actually make this. I use dark chocolate, milk, cream and some sugar to add to my red wine to prepare this warming drink. Again, as in the case of mulled wine, you can boil the wine to decrease the alcohol if you wish to. If not, you can even add a liquor of your choice to give it another boost. In any option, it’s a warming way to use the left-over wine.

As a wine consumer, it’s our responsibility to make sure our wines are not wasted, and our resources are respected. Next time you are opening a bottle of wine, choose it according to your consumption amount. If you have some left-over wine, make sure to store them correctly so you have at least a couple days more to enjoy them. Assess carefully color, smell and taste to understand if you can continue enjoying it. And finally, be creative to incorporate left-over wine into your cooking. Let’s care more about left-over wine and be aware.

Wine is here for us to enjoy, and it’s our responsibility to respect every drop of it.



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