“Who wastes wine …?” “There’s such a thing as leftover wine …?”
The usual comedy responses when, at Love Food Hate Waste, we talk wine-saving tips.
WRAP estimates UK households bin (well, pour down the sink) 42,000 tonnes of wine, costing a staggering £290 million, every year. The biggest reason for chucking wine is ‘not used in time’ with 26,000 tonnes or £180 million going to waste as a result. If you’ve mastered the basics of storing, cooking with and freezing leftover wine (thanks to the Love Food Hate Waste A–Z) here’s a bit more detail from wine expert Ed Fancourt from Boutinot - one of the leading UK-based distributors of quality wines from around the world.
- Storage: If you open a bottle of red wine and aren’t going to finish it, try putting it in the fridge or at least somewhere cool, cold even, overnight. It’ll keep a lot better. You can always bring it up to room temperature (ideally, about 17°C) before you drink the rest. Red will keep well for days in the fridge, as will whites. Alcohol is a preservative, so wines with a higher ABV (alcohol by volume) will keep longer still; although a week is probably pushing it a bit.
- Cooking with wine: Don’t cook with anything that has fully oxidised and turned acetic (in other words, vinegary) unless the recipe demands vinegar. Unfortunately, wine this far gone is best chucked away.
Remember that some more commercial wines, even reds, have relatively high levels of residual sugar in them. This might be fine – depending on what you are cooking.
Alcohol generally isn’t a desirable flavour in cooking, but wine is. Since alcohol boils at 78°C, it’s worth adding it to your stock/sauce early and then simmering. If you chuck it in at the end it’ll just make what you’re cooking taste bitter.
Finally, if you have wine left over, you can always freeze it and make wine ice cubes, which can then be used in cooking later. It saves opening a bottle especially for cooking or using good wine in your sauce when you had a more basic bottle available a few days before!
- Sealing and re-sealing: Cork, in many respects, is the best way of sealing a bottle of wine, as it’s a natural, sustainable product. However, it can be unreliable and – in perhaps 5% of instances – taint the wine, impairing/spoiling the flavour (hence the term, ‘corked’, which has nothing to do with little bits of cork floating in the wine). Also, it can dry out, shrink (over time) and allow too much oxygen into the bottle, which is why we lay wines horizontally for ageing.
Once you have opened the bottle, always try and use the original cork for re-sealing. It should fit back in snugly – with a bit of careful effort.
Screwcap is more reliable than cork (although not 100%) and ought to be taint-free. It’s sometimes almost too good a seal; arguably, a tiny amount of oxygen ingress when ageing wine is desirable, although I have tried some wines that have aged well under screwcap. Seems to work better for lighter reds and aromatic whites. It’s very easy to re-seal a screwcap bottle, of course!
Synthetic cork is probably the worst of both worlds. Non-sustainable, hard to recycle (as far as I know) and can be an unreliable seal. Also, it’s a pain to push back into the bottle if you need to re-seal! I often end up looking for a cork somewhere or even some cling film