“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.
Read more: The health benefits of coffee and wine
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 Grigot 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.
Keep wine fresher longer
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. Buy boxed wine. While boxed varieties started off with an, um, questionable reputation, their quality has improved over the years. Now they boast benefits that can compete with their bottled counterparts, not just in terms of cost and environmental friendliness, but shelf life too. Opened boxes can last as long as two months, compared to merely five days for bottled wine. See? It pays to think inside the box!
3. 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.
4. 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.
1. Vegan Scallops in White Wine Cream Sauce
Wine needed: ⅓ cup
Meat and dairy may be off-limits for vegans, but that doesn’t mean wine is off the menu (thank goodness!). This herbivore-friendly dinner uses a third of a cup of white, along with coconut milk, which offers a dose of infection-fighting lauric acid. Together they form a silky sauce that envelops the oyster mushrooms standing in for scallops. While robust Chardonnays are best for holding up to creamy dishes, really any leftover dry white wine will do here.
2. Poached Eggs in a Red Wine Sauce
Wine needed: 2 cups
Elevate the incredible, edible egg to a whole new level by surrounding it with a rich wine sauce. Using a hefty serving of red whisked in to a hearty mixture of veggies, herbs, and bacon, this classic French recipe is a handy way to use up any unfinished full-bodied variety like a Shiraz or a Malbec. Serve with a hunk of crusty garlic bread to help sop up all that wined-up, yolky goodness—your daily serving of protein couldn’t get more delicious.
3. White Wine Mushroom Bruschetta With Halloumi
Wine needed: just under ½ cup
A touch of cream and a splash of leftover white wine are all you need to lend this easy bruschetta a velvety topping. Stir it in to a sauté of vitamin D-filled mushrooms (feel free to experiment with different types), and spoon over baguette pieces topped with halloumi cheese. Result: A wow-worthy appetizer or the ideal meaty-yet-light side for a simple salad. (Note that this recipe uses metric measurements instead of U.S. standard, but no need to be exact with the cheese slices and cream.)
4. Lemon Pepper Wine-Braised Baby Broccoli
Wine needed: ½ cup
Broccoli is anything but boring when it’s been braised in wine! Flora Foodie’s recipe takes barely 10 minutes and uses just six ingredients, letting the fruitiness of the white wine and freshness of the lemon really shine through. A mere two teaspoons of melted Earth Balance give this dish its crunchy, buttery breadcrumb topping. Keep this healthy, fiber-full side dish in mind the next time you need to finish that bottle of Sauvignon Blanc (or want an excuse to open a new one).
5. Fresh Tomato Sauce With Balsamic and Red Wine
Wine needed: ⅛ cup
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.
6. Red Onion Marmalade Crostini
Wine needed: ½ cup
Caramelized onions are a revelation, but this marmalade takes things up a notch by browning this inflammation-reducing veggies in a reduction of wine, soy sauce, and a pat of butter. If you’ve got some uncorked Pinot Noir–or any other dry red—sitting around, now’s the time to call it into action. Spoon the sweet and savory mixture onto a goat-cheese smeared crostini for a cocktail party in your palm!
7. Eggplant and Tofu Ratatouille With Thai Basil
Wine needed: ¼ cup
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.
8. Homemade Baked Beans With Red Wine
Wine needed: 1 cup
Ditch the syrupy canned stuff and class up your next BBQ with this slightly tipsy version of baked beans. The combination of tomato paste and red wine gives the classic side a more refined sweetness and a lower glycemic index than if you were to use plain old sugar. Make it a few days in advance for the sauce to permeate further into the beans.
9. Angel Hair Pasta With Lemon Garlic Cherry Tomatoes
Wine needed: ½ cup
Channel the flavors of summer, no matter what the calendar says, with this effortless pasta. Cherry tomatoes (let's hear it for lycopene!) gets paired with plenty of flavanoid-containing fresh basil. A half a cup of white wine and a squirt of lemon make up its light sauce; again, Sauvignon Blanc works well here for a fruity, herbal punch that isn’t too overpowering. A dusting of grated Parmesan cheese lends a subtle salty finish without a sodium overload. And if the weather cooperates, have this bowl alfresco.
10. Drunken Pasta
Wine needed: 1½ 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!
11. Quinoa Risotto
Wine needed: 1 cup
Risotto is delicious, but let’s face it, it takes foreeeeeever 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.
12. 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.
13. Cherry Merlot Winesicles
Wine needed: 1½ 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!
14. Red Wine Chocolate Truffles
Wine needed: ½ 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.
15. Sparkling Wine Jelly
Wine needed: Just under 1½ 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.
16. Red Wine Chocolate Fudge Brownies
Wine needed: ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons
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.
For 27 awesome ways to use leftover wine, go to Greatist.com.