What to do With ‘Bad’ Wine

by Payton Alexander

First, you have to determine if, in fact, your wine has gone bad.

But once you do, there are several options for what to do with it, including cooking.

We’ve all forgotten about an open bottle of wine in the fridge door. It might seem unsalvageable, but don’t dump it down the sink just yet! Try out these useful tricks the next time an open bottle of vino is past its prime.

How to Know if Wine Has Gone ‘Bad’

When wine is first opened, it smells and tastes vibrant in the glass. After spending a couple of days (and sometimes just one day!) in the fridge or on the counter, wine loses that vitality. It may taste flat, lifeless or even slightly sour. 

This unfortunate turn happens because of prolonged air contact. While there are some methods for longer-lasting preservation, such as using a Coravin or a wine pump to reduce oxygenation, sooner or later the avid wine drinker will be faced with a bottle that’s technically fine but not very fun to drink. 

Thankfully, there are some great ways to still use up the rest of that wine.

Related: How to Store Wine

Common Flaws That Aren’t Your Fault

Sometimes things go wrong in the bottle long before you pop its cork. 

A common issue includes cork taint, which is caused by a chemical contaminant that makes the wine smell and taste like wet cardboard, old newspaper or a wet dog. This contamination could’ve happened in the barrels or in one of the lines while filling bottles. The only remedy is to return the bottle.

Another flaw that’s unfixable is microbial or bacterial infection. This happens most often with natural wines and will produce a smell like a hamster’s cage or a hay bale. In some cases, a “barnyard” quality is desirable, but if it’s a bottle you’ve had before and you’re noticing this funk, it’s best to just get a new one.

However, some flaws like a maderized wine (otherwise called “cooked”) or oxidized wines can also be given new life with one of our tips below:

1. Just Drink it

For the bottles that are only slightly less delicious than they were when first opened, you can give the wine new life in sangria or mulled wine. Using the wine as a vehicle for strong ingredients such as fruit or spices is a great way to still enjoy that bottle. 

Check out this summer-y sangria or this cozy mulled wine to get started!

2. Cook With ‘Bad’ Wine

You’ll hear chefs say to cook with wine you want to drink. Well, you wanted to drink this bottle that’s now gone bad – it doesn’t mean you can’t still cook with it! Here are a few ideas for cooking with “bad” wine:

3. Make a Fruit Fly Trap

For a wine that you don’t want to consume at all, there’s someone else who will: pesky fruit flies. Pour some of the wine into a jar and add a little dish soap. Shake it up to create bubbles, and then stretch saran wrap over the mouth of the jar. Poke small holes into the plastic wrap and set it on the kitchen counter or wherever else you’re experiencing fruit flies. The flies will investigate the vinegary concoction, able to get into the jar but not back out.

While we know you don’t want your wine to go bad, at least now you know how to repurpose that forgotten bottle!



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