A great bottle of red wine doesn’t last long in my house and easily gets tossed. Wine experts say this is a mistake, as there are many clever ways to use leftover red wine. Red wine is touted for its health benefits, from reducing the risk of stroke and heart attack to increasing bone density and more. But, how long is it actually safe to drink after opening? Thirty-six hours max, says David DeLuca, owner of LA Wine in Los Angeles.
Red wine typically starts to oxidize about 24 hours after opening. After that, he says, “It’s not really a matter of safety if you drink week-old wine; it just tastes gross.”
“The initial shock of oxygen that a wine receives when a bottle is opened helps it to open up and fully express its aromas and flavors, but prolonged exposure to oxygen can spoil the wine and turn it into vinegar,” says Darren Scott, chief sommelier and general manager of Estate Wine Brokers. Scott suggests using the wine for something other than drinking if you see signs of cloudiness and a sour, stale odor.
Cooking with wine is an age-old technique, but it’s also a great way to avoid wasting leftover red wine, Scott said. Red wine is full of antioxidants, which can protect blood vessels, prevent blood clots, and reduce levels of the “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Red wine reductions make flavorful glazes for meats and vegetables, Scott said. The addition of a full-bodied red wine makes dishes taste like they took hours to make. Pair leftover red wine, orange marmalade, and strawberries with salmon.
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Leftover red wine works well in marinades, Scott said. The acidity of red wine helps tenderize meat, like steak and chicken, and it keeps it moist while cooking.
Sangria—a mix of red wine, muddled fruit, brandy, sugar, and ice—is a simple way to use up leftover red wine and a “refreshing Spanish treat” perfect for summer, Scott says. Sangria can incorporate just about any fruity flavor.
Scott suggests adding club soda, ice, and fruit as a garnish to leftover red wine to make a classic spritzer. Leftover wine lends itself to endless spritzer recipes, including using flavored sparkling water and different fruits. Cherry and rosemary pair well for a refreshing spritzer.
Mulled wine is best enjoyed during the cold-weather months, and it tops Scott’s list of best leftover red wine uses. Simmer red wine with brandy, fruit, and spices for a cozy drink traditionally served around the holidays, he says. Blueberries, cinnamon, and clove can turn leftover red wine into Glühwein, a cozy German holiday drink.
Homemade vinegar can easily be made from leftover red wine, Scott said. Combine three parts red wine to one part vinegar, and let it age in a container for three or four weeks, he explained. Use homemade vinegar in salad dressings, marinades, or to make a shrub for cocktails or mocktails.
Melanie Kaman, sommelier at Baltaire in Los Angeles, suggests storing leftover red wine in the refrigerator to make it last longer or freeze in ice trays to create “wine ice cubes.” The ice cubes can be used later for sauces or in glasses of sangria to make it more intense, she says.
Along with flavoring savory sauces and marinades, leftover red wine works well in sweet recipes, like chocolate ganache. Melt semi-sweet chocolate with heavy cream, wine, butter, and cocoa powder for a rich ganache that’s tasty drizzled over ice cream or fruit or as a brownie or cake topping.
Beyond sauces, cocktails, and treats, leftover red wine can be used in non-edible ways, including as a skin moisturizer, Scott says. Red wine contains resveratrol, a polyphenol that can protect the skin from free radicals, which can cause wrinkles and fine lines. Resveratrol can also nourish and exfoliate the skin, and Scott suggests adding a cup of leftover red wine to a bath.