15 Creative Solutions For Leftover Wine

Illustrated by Jenny Kraemer.
By Anisha Jhaveri
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Leftover wine may sound like a mythical (or at least, laughable) idea for some of us. But, whether you just had a party or simply can’t soldier through a full bottle solo, at some point you’ll be facing this dilemma: A partially consumed bottle is rattling around your kitchen, and the clock is ticking on its drinkability. Don’t worry. We’ve scoped out some of the healthiest, most efficient, and most fun ways to use up the excess before it’s too late!
First Things First — Is Wine Really Healthy?
While it’s wishful thinking that doctors will be prescribing drinking sprees anytime soon, there are certain benefits to drinking in moderation. Both whites and reds contain anti-tumor properties as well as substances known to fend off heart disease. But, since reds boast higher levels of them, they’re billed as the healthiest of the wine family. Their antioxidants, known as polyphenols, lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, prevent blood clots, and protect blood vessels. So, pour yourself a serving (that’s five ounces a day for women and 10 ounces for men) to reap those benefits without going overboard, and read on to see what to do with the rest of that bottle.
How Long Does Wine Last?
Once opened, wine immediately starts to oxidize, a process that causes chemical disintegration and results in a beverage that’s faded in color, less potent in flavor, and has all-around lost its luster. The shelf life of wine depends largely on the type you’re using. Is it red, white, or sparkling? Even how dry or sweet it is has an impact on how long it'll last. Generally red wines hold up better than whites, and aged varieties outlast younger ones, so drink up your Pinot Grigio before moving on to the Malbec. As a basic timeline, young wines should hold up for three or four days, and older wines about a week. The exceptions are dessert wines and port, which can last up to a year after opening.
The bad news: There’s no real way to significantly extend the life of a bottle once opened. The good news? There are ways to avoid throwing that delish stuff down the drain, and to keep wine’s flavor at its peak during its limited window of freshness.
Illustrated by Jenny Kraemer.
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Storage Tips
1. Buy smaller bottles. It’s a lot easier to polish off 375ml than 750ml in one sitting. Another option is just to pour your wine into a smaller bottle if you can’t finish it all. That’ll minimize the oxidation. Remember to re-cork it tight!
2. Keep things cool. As the existence of wine coolers suggests, it’s important to keep bottles away from too much heat or light, which can ruin the wine’s flavor. The optimal storing temperature is 55°F (12-13°C). If you don’t have a cooler, try a dark cupboard or the fridge.
3. Freeze it. Pour any remaining wine into ice cube trays for short-term storage. While you may not want to straight-up drink it after thawing, it becomes a great pinch hitter when you need an extra flavor boost for sauces, glazes, or stews.
Good to the Last Drop — Your Action Plan
Ready to use up the bottom of that bottle? If you're not going to guzzle it, there are two basic approaches: cooking with it or using it for household tasks. If you're going the first route, remember the golden rule: If you wouldn’t drink it (eventually), don’t cook with it! And if you're not going to cook with it, don’t throw it down the drain.
Illustrated by Jenny Kraemer.
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Cooking: Savory
Turn the dregs at the bottom of the bottle into the key secret ingredient for this zippy sauce, to be ladled generously over pasta, used as a dip for bread, or as a base for pizza. Fresh tomatoes provide vitamin C and calcium, balsamic vinegar lends a sweet and tangy kick, and the vino brings in a sophisticated, antioxidant-enriched depth. An eighth of a cup may not sound like much, but use a bold red wine like a Zinfandel, and a little will go a long way.
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Although red wine might seem like an unusual ingredient for a dish containing tofu, the small serving used for this one-pot meal not only complements the more traditionally Asian elements of garlic, soy, and Thai basil, but gives them a warmth and complexity. Since it’s competing with other strong flavors, be sure you’re using up a heartier wine that can hold its own, like a Petit Syrah. Brimming with veggies and made even more hearty with protein-packed tofu, this nourishing, one-pot meal is both unusual and comforting.
6. Drunken Pasta
Wine needed: 1 1/2 cups
Had one glass of wine before bed last night, and now you’re faced with almost an entire bottle to use up before it goes bad? Enter drunken pasta. The noodles spend half their cooking time in water and the other half soaking in a bath of red, so don’t scrimp on quality here — the recipe recommends a good Chianti or Zinfandel. Pecorino Romano cheese, parsley, garlic, and chili peppers are the only other ingredients needed to make this healthful and dramatic dish Just look at that striking mauve tint — total dinner party/date-night material!
7. Quinoa Risotto
Wine needed: 1 cup
Risotto is delicious, but let’s face it, it takes forever to prepare. This recipe uses gluten-free quinoa in place of rice to drastically slash the cooking — and stirring — time. The rest of the ingredients are familiar risotto turf, including a full cup of dry white wine (leftover Pinot Grigio fits the bill) to lend a deeper, slightly acidic layer to the otherwise creamy concoction. Spinach adds a pop of color and some extra iron and vitamin K too.
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Illustrated by Jenny Kraemer.
Cooking: Sweet
8. Red Wine Chocolate Cake
Wine needed: 1 cup
A cake that contains wine and chocolate and still remains whole wheat, vegan, and free of refined sugar? Your Internet prayers have been answered. Love Food Eat’s recipe cleverly mixes a cup of red wine with strawberry jam and olive oil for a lightly sweet and slightly fruity dessert, while a heavy hit of cocoa powder ensures it’s still super chocolatey. Whole wheat baked goods run the risk of being overly dense, but the moisture from the alcohol keeps this one fluffy. It’s the ultimate “have your cake and eat it too” sitch.
9. Cherry Merlot Winesicles
Wine needed: 1 1/2 cups
It’s Good Humor all grown up. Containing a double dose of antioxidants from the fruit and wine and just a touch of simple syrup, these three-ingredient popsicles deserve a spot on your regular dessert rotation. While this recipe calls for cherries and Merlot, it’s got our wheels turning for countless other equally healthy, cocktail-inspired combos: blackberries and Pinot Noir, blueberries and Cabernet, peaches and Prosecco…go forth and experiment!
10. Red Wine Chocolate Truffles
Wine needed: 1/2 cup
Paleo people, rejoice: red wine is generally recognized as acceptable on the “caveman” diet. Honor those ancient urges for wine and chocolate by making these ridiculously easy, four-ingredient Paleo truffles. No specific type of red needed here; use whatever you have on hand and the results will still be smooth, rich, and melt-in-your-mouth delectable. Small but filling, they’re also a smart, portion-controlled way to tame a sweet tooth.
11. Bread Pudding With Port Wine Sauce
Wine needed: 1 cup
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Were you gifted a bottle of dessert wine that’s now collecting dust? Dig it out for a tart-and-sweet sauce to drizzle over this traditional Portuguese bread pudding. Pieces of day-old baguette absorb the liquid beautifully, and coconut milk keeps the recipe dairy-free. The sauce alone is so versatile that it can also be used to jazz up store-bought pound cake or even pour over some ice cream.
We admit, the title of this recipe is a bit off-putting, but adventurous eaters will be rewarded with a sophisticated fusion of flavors. Heart-healthy olive oil gives these cupcakes an earthy depth and soaked basil leaves infuse them with a savory undertone and lovely specks of green. Half a cup of fruity white wine is perfect for keeping with the herb-y theme and lending a complex sweetness without adding more sugar. If you’ve got an unused White Zinfandel or Sauternes, bring it to this bake-off!
13. Red Wine Chocolate Fudge Brownies
Wine needed: 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp
When done right, wine plus chocolate is a match made in antioxidant heaven; the intensity of the former highlights the subtle nuances of the latter. But, as this recipe shows, the proof is in the batter. There's no skimping on the butter or sugar here, but these treats are made with whole foods and have an ultra fudgey finish. A luscious glaze tops off the whole shebang.
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14. Mango Moscato Smoothie
Wine needed: 1/2 cup
Splash that remaining Moscato from last Sunday’s brunch into this summery blend of fruit and fizz. Taking all of twenty seconds to whirl up, this smoothie is great for a buzzy weekend breakfast or as a fun twist on a nightcap. Like other recipes on this list, make this your launchpad for your own unending variations. Throw in berries and melons or Proseccos and Rieslings.
15. Sparkling Wine Jelly
Wine needed: Just under 1 1/2 cups
Opened some bubbly yesterday but ended the night before you could end the bottle? Put that extra brut to good use in this gorgeous sparkling wine jelly. Gelatin gives a wobbly texture while agave drops a hint of sweetness. Topped with dainty raspberries (bonus vitamin C!) and served in goblets, it’s an elegant and refreshing dessert that looks way more complicated than the simple refrigeration that’s required.
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For more amazing uses for wine, check out the full list over at Greatist.
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