Left Over Wine?


By Ron Fenolio, CEO Veedercrest Vineyards and Winery

Does the title “left over wine” just seem like an oxymoron to you?  It may seem funny to many that we didn’t finish the bottle we opened to enjoy.  But one bottle is often too much for a couple of people to share at dinner, especially if they wish to enjoy a sparkling wine with appetizers, a white wine with a fish course, then a red wine with the main course. Half bottles or the smaller splits are not always available except for sparkling wines.  I am sure that after a large holiday dinner party there will be open bottles of wines left on many of your dining tables.  So what to do?  Well don’t give up the enjoyment.

Preserving a Partial Bottle

It is not a given that left over will “go bad”.  There are many ways to manage even your fine bottle of Petrus, Lafitte Rothchild, Romanee Conti, Joseph Phelps Insignia or Screaming Eagle.  There is no need to forgo that well aged collectors bottle of very expensive wine if you first invest in a Coravin.  If you are not familiar with the Coravin it could be most easily described as an “IV” or intravenous device for the wine cork (you must have a bottle of wine with natural cork).  You insert a needle through the cork and the device uses pressure capsules of inert gasses to force out a glass of wine for you to enjoy.  Withdraw the needle and the cork miraculously continues to protect the wine for at least several months.  You can take the bottle out a week or two later and enjoy another glass and again no spoilage after you withdraw the needle.  Or put a partial bottle of wine in the freezer.  James Laube, the respected former Napa bureau chief for Wine Spectator Magazine devoted an article to preserving wine in part by replacing the cork and putting the wine in freezer.  He maintains that you can put the wine in the freezer for a week, defrost it just like you would concentrated orange juice, and still enjoy it as it will be in fine condition.   You can also just coat the top of the wine with nitrogen to keep the oxygen away, cork it and drink it a day or several days later.  These are only some of the several ways in which you can preserve wines from partially drunk bottles.

Alternatives to Preservation

So the bottle you opened is not your favorite $100 or $1000 bottle of wine and you have no desire to worry about long term preservation.  What else can be done with left over wine? Turns out that there are so many things that it will take a fair amount of time to get through most of them.

Cooking with WIne

The first alternative of course is to use the wine in cooking.  Open your trusty volume of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and check out the recipes for Coq au Vin (chicken in wine) or Bouef Bourguignon. You don’t need to be an experienced chef to follow her recipes and you will thoroughly enjoy the result.  Coq au Vin is traditionally made with a softer red wine (Burgundy, Merlot, Grenache) but it is especially good made with a very dry Riesling.  While Bouef Bourguignon is traditionally made with Burgundy, it is equally good if made  with Zinfandel, Cabernet, or Syrah. 

Other ideas for cooking with wine include putting red wine into tomato sauce (the acid and complexity greatly enhance the flavor of the tomato sauce); for a  wonderful desert poach pears in red wine, sugar and cinnamon; poach filet of sole or other white fish in a white wine or left over sparkling wine; and my favorite, use Pinot Noir as a poaching liquid for salmon, use another bottle of pinot noir to make the sauce for the salmon by gently reducing the wine with a basket of fresh raspberries.  Don’t forgot to save the third bottle of the same Pinot Noir to drink with this elegant meal.  Port wine is an ideal addition to sweet sauces such as making a sauce with port wine, cinnamon and prunes in which to slowly braise pork shortribs.  In short, acids enhance the flavor of foods, the acid in wine being no exception.  Some chefs suggest you can cut down on your salt intake if necessary by balancing flavors in foods by the use of more acid in a recipe.

Drinks Based upon WIne

Left over wines are perfectly good a day or several days later to use as a base for drinks for your next party.  In the summertime, use the left over wines to make Sangria – not just red Sangria but also white Sangrias.  Add citrus and sugar to make the red Sangria.  For a wonderful white Sangria use  left over honeydew and or cantaloupe. In the wintertime the left over red wine can be used to make mulled wine, a wonderful festive way  to welcome your friends back from skiing or other outdoor activities in during the cold season or in snowy climates.  My Nonno, my  beloved Italian grandfather, would add a jigger of red wine to his coffee to make a “coffee royal”.  My beloved Nonna give the farmworkers “breakfast” as they headed out to the fields – a lightly poached egg or even a raw egg in a glass of red wine! 

And now for two of the favorites from our house

Have you ever thought of making after dinner candies from wine?  A very special candy made by just about every French patisserie is Pate de Fruit – a fruit gelée made from purees of fruit, pectin, sugar and lemon juice.  The sheets of gelled fruits are cut into squares less than an inch on each side, rolled in sugar and put onto candy trays for serving with your coffee.  Any fruit will do but stone fruit such as apricots are a traditional favorite as are berry based candies.  However did you know that you can substitute two thirds of the fruit puree with leftover wine?  Use two parts of wine (eight ounces) to one part of fruit puree (four ounces) along with the pectin, sugar and lemon juice to make wonderful Pate de Vin.  Many many wineries stock gift boxes of different flavors of Pate de Vin made with different wines  - Riesling, Zinfandel, Cabernet, etc., as a way of showing off their wines.

And last but not least, make homemade vinegar.  Once you get used to having homemade vinegar you will give up on commercial products. Homemade vinegars are much more robustly flavored and higher in acid than the commercial products.  Get a five gallon glass jar or five gallon oak barrel, ideally both will have a spigot at the bottom.  Pour a 375 ml liter bottle of natural unfiltered apple cider vinegar into your container.  Braggs works well.  You need a vinegar with the live bacteria (the “mother” for the vinegar) in the bottle.  Then start adding your left over red wines.  In about four weeks you will start to have wonderful vinegar.  You can keep adding left over red wines as you have them, and from time to time draw off vinegars to use in cooking.  If you wish to have a white wine vinegar (chardonnay vinegar or champagne vinegar) you will need to get a second container. Adding white wines to red wine vinegar will over the long run make the red wine vinegar look more like a “blush” vinegar or rose vinegar.  Homemade vinegar is a great holiday gift to your friends.  Remember that the longer the vinegar stays in contact with the oak barrel the more woody it will taste, so decant at least every three to six months and empty and clean the barrel and start over at least every year or so.

As you can readily see, there is no such thing as “left over wine”.  These are many ways to preserve wine and also many uses for those partial bottles of various wines.  Use your imagination to make a whole range of delights,  have fun, and most of all, ENJOY!