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Can You Use Old Wine for Cooking: Here's The Truth!

Can You Use Old Wine for Cooking: Here's The Truth!

You love hosting big parties, but you always end up with half-open bottles of wine that languish in your refrigerator. And you hate to throw them out because it feels wasteful. So, you might be wondering if you can use old wine for cooking.

The truth is that you can use old wine for cooking. You can cook various delicious dishes with old wine that is unfit for drinking up to two months after it's been opened.  To keep old wine safe for cooking, you can:

  • Store the open wine in the fridge
  • Lay it on its side with the cork.
  • Avoid heat

There are many ways you can use old wine for cooking. But how do you know when wine goes bad? This question and many more are answered in the comprehensive guide below.

Can You Use Old Wine for Cooking

The truth is that you can use old wine for cooking a variety of dishes. Whether you use red or white wine doesn’t matter.

You can cook with wine for up to two months or longer after the bottle has been opened. Even if the wine you use for cooking is unfit for drinking. As long as you,

  • Store the bottle in the fridge. This extends the life of the wine and preserves it for longer.
  • Cork the bottle and lay it on its side. This keeps the cork moist.
  • Avoid storing the wine in any place it could be exposed to heat. Such as by the stove or fridge. Heat causes the wine to turn acidic faster and lose its taste.

Old wine in opened wine bottles becomes unfit for drinking after about a 3-5 days, once it becomes exposed to air. That’s because the sulfur dioxide used to preserve the wine gets replaced with oxygen. Like an apple, once exposed to air, the wine starts to oxidize and tastes stale.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t use it for cooking. There are many ways to use old wine in your cooking. For example,

  • You can braise meat in old wine.
  • You can use old wine in pan sauces
  • You can add it to stews

Can You Cook with Old Opened Wine

You can cook with old bottles of opened wine long after it’s become undrinkable. Opened bottles of wine don’t last as long as unopened bottles of wine. Once wine is exposed to air, it begins to oxidize over a period of time. Eventually, it becomes acidic and stale.

How Long Can You Keep Open Wine for Cooking?

In general, you can keep opened wine for cooking for about two months. But you have to store the opened bottles of wine in the fridge, to make them last that long.

How quickly a bottle of opened wine becomes undrinkable depends on the wine:

Type of Wine Drinkable
White Wine 1-3 days
Red Wine 1-2 weeks
Cooking wine 1-2 months
Wine in a box 6-12 months

To make your opened bottle of wine last longer, follow these steps:

  • Put the cork back in the neck of the bottle.
  • If you accidentally threw the cork away, use a substitute like plastic wrap and a rubber band or a wine stopper.
  • Place the bottle in the fridge on its side. The moisture from the wine keeps the cork moist and prevents more air from escaping.
  • You can use a wine saver vacuum to extract any air in the bottle to help it last longer for drinking.

If you have more than one brand of wine, you can combine like kind wine in the same bottle to save space.

Make sure to avoid placing the wine in any spot where it is exposed to heat. Places such as:

  • On top of or next to a fridge
  • Over a dishwasher
  • By a stove
  • Leaving it in a hot car

Wine exposed to heat will become undrinkable faster. But you can still use it for cooking, so don’t throw it away.

Can You Cook with Old Unopened Wine

You can cook with old unopened wine, even if it's past its expiration date. Whether it’s red or white, old unopened wine can make some delicious dishes. Even if you can’t drink it anymore. It may even be better to use than a new bottle of cooking wine.

As long as a bottle of wine is left unopened and stored in a cool, dry place, it can last for far longer than its expiration date.

Type of Wine How long it lasts unopened
Bottled white wine 1-2 years
Bottled red wine 2-3 years
Cooking wine 3-5 years
Wine in a box 1 year
Fine Wine 10 years or longer

How Do You Know if Wine Has Gone Bad?

Opened bottles of wine can go bad faster than unopened bottles of wine. Each type of wine has a shelf life that determines when it is the most optimum time for drinking. And even after it’s no longer fit for drinking, you can still use it for cooking.

There are some things you can do to tell if your bottle of wine is no longer fit for drinking. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the color of the wine?
  • How does it smell?
  • What does it taste like?

What Does Bad Wine Look Like?

When you are examining your unopened bottle of wine, there are things you can look for to tell if it’s gone bad.

The first thing you can look at is its color. Wines turn a different color when they are no longer fit for drinking.

Your darker colored wines, like red or purple wines, may turn a brownish or brick color. Like an apple exposed to air. Then it’s no longer good to drink.

If you have a lighter colored wine, like white wine, and it has a golden yellow or brownish straw color, then it’s oxidized and not drinkable.

Check to see if there are tiny bubbles in your wine. If your wine isn’t supposed to be bubbly, then it may have begun fermenting.

Also, if your bottle of wine is unopened, then examine the cork.

Is it slightly pushed up from the neck of the bottle and comes up over the rim? Then there’s a good chance that it was exposed to heat and has begun to expand in the bottle.

Is the cork stained with the wine from inside the bottle? If so, then there's probably a leak in the cork, and it's begun to oxidize.

How Does Bad Wine Smell?

Besides examining your bottle of wine for what it looks like, you can also smell if your wine has gone bad.

In general, wine that has gone bad will smell off and moldy.

If your unopened bottle of wine has gone bad, it will have a weird smell like

  • Burnt rubber
  • Cabbage
  • Garlic

But if it’s been opened and has an acidic smell like sauerkraut or vinegar, then it’s been open too long and isn’t good for drinking.

If your wine has a nutty smell, then it's gone stale and should only be used for cooking; it might also smell something like

  • Burnt marshmallows
  • Applesauce
  • Raisins

What Does Bad Wine Taste Like?

If you've looked at your wine and smelled it but still aren't sure if it’s good or not. If you’re feeling brave. You can try tasting it to see if it's still drinkable

Just a sip can tell you all you need to know, and it won’t hurt you.

When you take a sip and it has a taste like chemicals, then it's definitely only good for cooking. You might also experience a flavor such as:

  • Paint thinner
  • Astringent alcoholic flavor
  • Burnt applesauce
  • Sour tasting

If your wine tastes sweet, like a fine dessert wine, but it wasn't a sweet wine to start with, then chances are it's been exposed to too much heat, and it's not drinkable.

Also, pay attention if your wine has a fizzy taste, like carbonated water. If your wine wasn’t supposed to be bubbly, then it’s most likely undergoing another round of fermentation and only good for cooking.

Can You Get Sick from Old Wine?

While you can feel sick from drinking too much wine and get a really bad hang-over, chances are you won’t get sick from drinking old wine. That’s because of wine’s high alcohol content.

When old wine goes stale or bad, most of the time, it turns into an acidic substance that is undrinkable.

Can You Drink Spoiled Wine?

You can drink wine that’s spoiled because it doesn't "spoil" in the sense that it contains bacteria that will harm your body. Spoiled wine simply means that it is no longer enjoyable for drinking. The way it tastes and smells is awful, and it's only fit for cooking.

Even if your wine looks or smells moldy, you won’t get sick from accidentally drinking it. Prime conditions for storing wine also help grow mold. So don’t worry if your wine bottle or the cork has a little mold on it because it’s probably just on the outside.

Can You Get Food Poisoning from Old Wine?

You can’t get food poisoning from old wine because it doesn’t develop that kind of bacteria.

Food poisoning usually occurs when you consume food or drinks that contain harmful bacteria from being undercooked or spoiled. 

When old wine goes bad, it ends up rendering the wine undrinkable. All of the wonderful tastes go right out the window.

Drinking red wine is good for your body and helps with good gut health. So if you have a negative reaction from drinking old red wine, chances are it’s because you are allergic to red wine.

And you won’t get sick from drinking old white wine either. White wine has anti inflammatory properties, among other benefits, and is good for your health. When white wine goes bad, that just means that you can’t drink it. But you can still cook with it.

Wine contains antibacterial properties and is very good for oral health as it can help kill off oral viruses.

So, don’t be concerned about getting sick after accidentally drinking old wine. Mostly it will be the taste that turns you off.

Does Unopened Cooking Wine Go Bad?

Unopened cooking wine is meant to last for far longer than regular wine. But it can go bad after a few years and become less effective, especially with the number of preservatives contained in it.

Cooking wine is made up of a combination of ingredients including:

  • Wine
  • Salt -for preservation
  • Potassium Sorbate - which is a preservative
  • Sodium metabisulfite - a preservative.

And it’s good for cooking dishes like

  • Creamy sauces and soups
  • Simmering chicken or turkey
  • As a balance for spicy dishes
  • Fish and seafood
  • Adding flavor in dishes where water or broth are called for.

Because of the amount of preservatives, a bottle of unopened cooking wine can last three to five years past the expiration date. And once opened, can last over two months in the fridge or longer.

How Do You Store Wine for Cooking?

How you store wine for cooking is important to make it last longer. In general, good wine storage practices make your wine last longer period.

Good wine storage practices consist of:

  • Storing it at the right temperature.
  • Store it away for light and heat
  • Store it at the right humidity levels
  • Store it in a wine fridge
  • Storing the wine bottle horizontally

Storing Wine at the Right Temperature

Storing wine at the right temperature makes it last longer overall. Do your best to store wine at the ideal temperature of 55 degrees Celsius. This helps to keep the wine drinkable over a longer period.

If you store wine in temperatures below 25 degrees Celsius, it can freeze and destroy the flavors. Store wine in too hot temperatures above 65 degrees Celsius, and it makes the wine age faster.

In fact, fluctuations in temperature can cause the cork to expand and contract and expose the wine inside the glass bottles to air, which also ages it faster.

Store Wine Away from Light and Heat

The best place to store wine is in the dark, away from any sources of light or heat, such as a basement. Exposing wine to sunlight and UV rays can cause damage to its flavor and smell. And exposing it to heat will accelerate the aging process, as well as ruin the flavor.

Store Wine at the Right Humidity Levels

Wine needs to be stored at the right level of humidity. The ideal level of humidity is between 60 to 68 percent. If it gets too dry, your cork can shrink and cause air to seep into the wine and speed up oxidization. Too humid, and your labels might peel off, as well as develop mold around the cork and bottle.

Store Wine in a Wine Fridge

If you don’t have a damp basement with fancy wine racks to store your wine, you can store wine in a wine fridge.

Wine fridges have the perfect combination of temperature and humidity. Although many wine fridges have glass front cases to see the bottles, you can protect your wine by tucking your wine fridge in a closet or dark room.

As an added bonus, it keeps your wine stable and safe.

Store Wine Bottles Horizontal

The best way to store wine bottles is horizontal, on their side. The wine keeps the cork moist and seals holes. This preserves your wine for much longer. It also is a more efficient way to store wine because it saves space.

Should You Refrigerate Wine?

Refrigerating wine that’s been opened is the best way to help it last longer. Because once you open a bottle of wine, you start the oxidizing process.

And if you’re not able to finish a full bottle of wine, then popping it in your fridge is the best way to save it for later. And even after it starts to smell and become undrinkable, you can still use it for cooking for at least two months afterward.

Though your fridge isn’t the most ideal place to store wine because of its dry environment, storing leftover opened wine there will help keep it as fresh as possible for much longer.

Freezing Leftover Wine for Cooking

You can freeze an opened bottle of wine to cook with later, especially if it’s reached the point where you can no longer drink it.

Because alcohol has a lower freezing point, it might take longer to freeze. But it’s a great way to preserve wine to cook with later.

Can You Freeze Wine to Cook with Later?

What do you do with leftover wine either sitting at the bottom of a glass or in a half-empty bottle? You can put it in the freezer to last longer.

In fact, this is a great way to preserve old wine for cooking because it halts the oxidation process. Consider putting your old wine in smaller containers to use in cooking dishes later on. You can:

  • Freeze small amounts of wine in an ice tray, so you only have to use what you need instead of opening a new bottle.
  • Pop leftover wine in ziplock bags for larger quantities of leftover wine.
  • Make sure to keep the red and white wines separated.

Using the Freezer to Chill Your Wine

You can use the freezer to chill your wine before parties. Putting your wine in the freezer between 20 to 30 minutes is a great way to chill it down faster if you’re in a hurry. If you wrap a wet towel around the bottle of wine, you’ll chill it to a drinkable temperature within ten minutes.

Don’t freeze closed bottles of wine long term because the frozen wine can expand and contract, causing the cork to shrink. This exposes the wine inside the bottle to air and ruins it for drinking.

If you accidentally chilled it for too long, just let your wine sit out and thaw to room temperature. Or pop it in the fridge for later. Freezing slightly changes the taste of the wine, but it should be fine for drinking.

Can You Use Old Port Wine for Cooking

You can use an old port wine for cooking, just like you would use red or white wine for cooking. Port, along with Madeira and Sherry wine, is considered to be a fortified wine.

Fortified wines are wines that have extra alcohol added to them, and the wine is created from the natural fermentation process. As a result, they have a richer and deeper flavor. Port wine is very sweet and is typically used in desserts and sauces.

Depending on the type of port wine, it can last for years unopened. And even after being opened, port can last up to a month at room temperature or two months in the fridge and still be drinkable.

But like regular wine, will eventually oxidize and taste off over time. You can cook delicious sauces with old port wine, but make sure to put it in the fridge to last longer.

What Else Can You Do With Old Opened Wine?

There are other things you can do with old, opened bottles of wine besides cooking. Maybe you have more opened bottles of old wine than you know what to do with. And you don't think you'll be able to use it all up in your cooking recipes; then you can use it for projects such as:

  • Turn it into vinegar
  • Use it to dye fabric
  • Turn it into jelly

How You Can Turn Old Wine into Vinegar

You can turn old wine into wine vinegar by following a few simple steps. The trick is to add a catalyst to your leftover wine to kickstart the fermentation process. You can use things like:

To make the vinegar, you need to:

  • Pour your leftover wine into a wide-mouthed vessel, like a mason jar.
  • Add your vinegar starter, about a fourth the amount of wine.
  • Cover the mixture with a cheesecloth
  • Store it at room temperature away from sunlight for about two weeks to a month.
  • Stir it once a week
  • You’ll notice a clear gelatin start to develop on the surface of your mixture, this is the mother and the starter for your next batch.
  • Taste the mixture and let it ferment until you’re happy with the results.
  • Remove the gelatinous layer and use it to start another round of wine vinegar.
  • Strain the liquid and bottle it for later use.
  • Store the bottle at room temperature.

You Can Turn Old Wine into Jelly

You can turn your old red wine into a delicious batch of jelly. Jelly makes a good spread for toast in the morning. Why not use up your leftover wine by turning it into jelly.

To do this, you’ll need:

  • Wine -2 cups
  • Sugar -3.25 cups
  • Pectin -one pouch
  • Canning Supplies
  • Large pot

Once you’ve gathered your supplies, you’ll need to prepare the canning jars. You can do this by:

  • Clean and sterilize the canning jars and lids with soapy water
  • Put enough water in the canning pot to cover the jars and lids by at least an inch
  • Bring this to a boil for about five minutes to sterilize the jars.
  • Turn the water down so that it stays hot

Get your wine mixture ready by:

  • Begin by bringing the wine and sugar to a rolling boil in a large pot
  • Once it begins boiling, add the pectin.
  • Boil the mixture for another minute

Once your jelly mixture is ready, you’ll need to pour it into the canning jars. Do this by:

  • Carefully removing the jars from the hot water with a pair of tongs
  • Place them on a towel
  • Using a funnel, pour the jelly mixture into the jars until the mix is about a quarter inch from the top
  • Wipe the rims clean with a clean cloth
  • Gently place the lids on the jars

At this point, you can either place them in the fridge to cool. Your jelly should last at least two months this way. Or you can finish canning them in the canner. To do this, you need to:

  • Place the sealed jars in the canning pot
  • Bring the hot water to 180 degrees Celsius, using a thermometer to help you
  • Heat the jars for ten minutes, uncovered.
  • Remove the jars and let them cool
  • The lids should seal as the jelly cools
  • Press the center of the lid down to make sure it worked.

You can store your jelly in the pantry for up to two years.

You Can Use Old Wine for Cooking

As you can see, using wine for cooking is a great way to keep your leftover wine from going to waste. Make sure to keep it in the fridge to last longer by up to two months.

Even if the wine is old and undrinkable, you can still use it to flavor your favorite sauces and desserts for weeks to come.

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