I have many half-empty bottles of red wine. After a week, they're mostly undrinkable. I'd normally pour them down the sink, but I've recently thought, why waste it? So my question is, what can I do with leftover wine?
Waste-Not Wine Drinker,
It's a valid point, and one we're long due on considering at Lifehacker. We have, after all, offered plenty of suggestions on using wine corks, along with various recycling ideas for wine bottles. The red stuff itself, though — the kind that you don't want to serve out, even if corked with supposedly air-tight rubber stoppers — should be able to find some kind of second life.
There's a lot of debate on this topic because, well, it's a foodie thing, and it's to be expected. But we've tried to round up some ideas for wine that's just slightly started to turn. If your wine smells terrible and seems entirely inedible, just go ahead and toss it. If you just can't use it up in very short order, here's some suggestions:
Cook With It
Julia Child herself once said that you should never cook with a wine you wouldn't enjoy drinking, and many agree with her. The New York Times does not. They assembled a panel of tasters to try dishes cooked with both esteemed and very cheap bottles, and in most cases, they could not tell the difference or turn their nose up at the stuff cooked with the cheap stuff.
A number of forum posters at the Chowhound boards also find slightly-old wine perfect for this purpose. Stick to dishes that require boiling down ("reducing"), slow braising over time or even making a syrup, they say, and you'll get good results from less-than-perfect wine.
We're coming into the season that's just right for cosying up with warm beverages, and mulling wine gives it a new character that can work around its slightly oxygenated character.
The Fluther boards point us to a Danny Boome mulled wine recipe that uses an entire standard bottle, but you can adjust as needed. There's also the wonders of sbiten, a Russian remedy for whatever ails you. For a more traditional, holiday-style mulled wine drink, try Wired's how-to wiki on holiday party drinks.
Old wine is basically on its way toward vinegar, anyways, so you may as well help it along in more tasty fashion. We've found helpful guides to buying a crock with a spout, obtaining a "starter" (similar to homemade bread yeasts) and gradually adding wine to your batch at the Wine Tastings Guide site, but I also remember a slightly more narrative-form guide in Food & Wine.
Enjoy your wine, whatever you end up using it for,
P.S. Everyone peeking in on this correspondence is welcome to submit their own best uses for past-its-peak wine in the comments.
Top photo by biskuit.