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I made a dish that used a small amount of wine and now I'm wondering how long I can keep the rest of it for next time. I know you wouldn't want to keep good drinking wine around long after opening it, but does the wine get too bad to use in cooking quickly? It's Chardonnay, if it matters. Thanks!

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I buy those little 4 pacs of Cavit (they have both red & white)to cook with they're the right size, that way nothing is wasted. – user18965 Jun 28 '13 at 0:38
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Opened wine spoils fast. Red wine lasts about 1 day, white wine lasts about 3 days. You can prolong this slightly by putting it in the refrigerator, but only by a few days at most, and it depends on the wine.

It may be "safe" to consume for much longer, but the taste will be way off, even for cooking purposes. If you've opened it - finish it. ASAP.

There are exceptions: "Cooking wines" such as cooking sherry and rice cooking wine have an array of preservatives added and will keep for much longer. But don't leave perfectly good Chardonnay just sitting around to oxidize.

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I disagree with this. Red Wine can last for several days once opened. Sometimes it can even improve before finally spoiling. White Wine we've had last for weeks or longer in the refrigerator. It tasted about the same two weeks later as it had when first opened. Admittedly, it was cheap white wine. But still, for cooking purposes, unless we're talking extreme gourmet wine can be kept for several weeks in the fridge or several days out of and be absolutely fine for cooking. – Daniel Bingham Jul 17 '10 at 14:19
Just a couple of small points. Sherry and rice wine should not be referred to simply as "cooking wines" as they are used for drinking in the same way as ordinary wine. Sherry is a fortified wine as brandy is added after the fermentation process. Rice wine is not fortified. It's fermented rice and yeast. – Pulse Jul 17 '10 at 14:24
@Daniel I'm afraid I'd have to disagree with you. I'm sure you wouldn't skimp when it came to buying a nice piece of meat fore Sunday lunch, so why use oxidised wine to ruin the sauce. Oxidation of wine sets in immediately the wine is exposed to the air and even if the wind is resealed, the damage is done. By using wine older than a few days, you are essentially adding vinegar. – Pulse Jul 17 '10 at 14:29
Except that you aren't, it tastes fine to all but the most trained pallets. In the case of everyday cooking the question isn't whether you'll "ruin" the sauce for the trained pallet, but whether your average cook or eater will be able to tell the difference. I never was - and my pallet isn't exactly untrained. Maybe I'm just not enough of a snob, but my rule has always been - if it works, don't worry about it. – Daniel Bingham Jul 17 '10 at 14:35
@Pulse: That's why I said cooking sherry and not just sherry. Cooking sherry has a bunch of preservatives added. You're right that rice cooking wine isn't alcohol-fortified, I meant fortified with the same kind of preservatives (guess I wasn't very clear). – Aaronut Jul 17 '10 at 15:04

The trick is that you won't want it to oxidize (although, red wine needs to 'breathe' to reduce some of the tannins, which is why @DanielBingham said it might improve.) So, if you just need to hold it for a few days, store the bottle upright (minimize surface area exposed to air), and not on the door of the fridge -- it'll get jostled and mix air into it.

They also sell gadgets that inject nitrogen or other non-oxygen gas into bottles, or things to suck out the air, etc. But if you're not much of a wine drinker, from your earlier comments, I wouldn't bother. (hell, I don't even know if they work).

Oh -- boxed wine will last longer -- because there's a bag inside the box, when you pour out wine, the bag deflates, so air doesn't go back in (or not much of it). You can hold boxed wine for a week or two, maybe even longer without problem.

If you're not much of a wine drinker, and only cook with the wine -- you might want to consider freezing it -- as with everything else -- an ice cube tray, freeze, transfer to zip-top bag. Then, when you need little for a sauce, you can just thaw out of a cube or two. It might not be as great as "fresh" bottle of wine, but if you're cooking with it, most people won't notice the difference, and it'd still be better than a dedicated "cooking" wine.

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The freezing idea is interesting, I'll try that sometime. Thanks! – Chris Jul 18 '10 at 18:07

I'm surprised this simple cliche answer isn't here yet, so here we go:

"If you wouldn't drink it, don't cook with it."

This can apply both to which wine to buy and to if that week old bottle is still ok to use.

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For cooking wine, it can keep for weeks in the refrigerator, depending upon how picky you are about the flavor. White Wines especially, we've kept for weeks or longer and the flavor was not changed significantly. Admittedly they were cheap white wines, but that's what we usually used for cooking. Red Wines, I don't know about, but I would guess that if you kept them in the fridge it would be about the same.

Edit: The assumption behind this is that your an average Joe cooking for yourself or your family. And keep means it hasn't turned to sour vinegar. It may not taste the same as when you'd just opened it, and you probably shouldn't do it if you're in cooking school or a nice restaurant. But if you're the average person who doesn't have a ton of income to spend on a new bottle of wine every time you want to cook with it and your question is "How long can I get away with keeping it?" then the answer is several weeks in the refrigerator.

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Opened wine will spoil quickly. Reds will usually stay drinkable longer than whites, but it depends on the specific wine. The effect is somewhat similar to massively accelerated cellar aging, at a rate of several years per day.

If you have small containers with good seals that you can fill all the way to the top (I use 250 ml screw-top San Pellegrino bottles), you can portion out a newly-opened bottle of wine, and it will keep for a little while. The key is to leave as little air space as possible.

If you are making a dish that calls for a small quantity of white wine, try using white vermouth, which will keep for months in the fridge. This is what I do for risotto, which usually calls for 1/2 cup or so of wine, and the results are very good.

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Thanks for the vermouth tip, I'll try that next time I need wine. – Chris Jul 18 '10 at 18:06

For white wine, I always use dry Vermouth. It lasts forever unrefrigerated, doesn't cost much, doesn't sour, and it's a damn fine substitution if I do say so myself. The only time I use anything else is when I plan on using the better part of a bottle, in which case the specific character of the wine is more important.

Keeping an actual nice white wine? It's not going to happen. Even in a refrigerator it'll be going off within a week of being opened. And crappy "cooking wine" brand wine doesn't even bear consideration.

Red wines are even worse, because they oxidize rapidly on contact with air, and tend not to be refrigerated at all. I use Sherry in the place of red wine in some dishes, but I tend to use red wine most in stews and braises and there I tend to measure by the bottle.

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Actually vermouth DOES oxidize over time - but fairly slowly. Try this experiment next time you need to buy a new bottle of vermouth. Get a new bottle when you have just a little of the old vermouth left. Pour some vermouth from the new bottle into a wine glass and taste it - YUM! Then taste some of the vermouth that has been sitting around a few months - YECCH! I was surprised when I did this myself. – Rick G Sep 6 '10 at 21:05
@Rick G: I blow through that stuff at the rate of a bottle every 2 weeks or so, so it's usually not a problem. Any liquid that sits around for months, opened, is going to degrade. – Satanicpuppy Sep 8 '10 at 14:00

Please don't bother EVER buying "cooking wine". This is simply nasty cheap wine that has a bunch of preservatives added.

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Yes, exactly, it has preservatives added so that you can store it. If the author had bought cooking wine as opposed to using good Chardonnay, he could have stored the remainder for weeks or even months. – Aaronut Jul 23 '10 at 21:12

I have used red wine for cooking tomato based sauces, beef stews and chili for years, and at times have left the wine in the refrigerator for a few months and used it again. Of course I taste it to make sure it hasn't turned, if it still tastes good I use it (I know what good wine tastes like). I store it on it's side in a cold (34.5 degree) refrigerator. I usually spend between $6.99 to $8.99 a bottle on sale, and buy only Oregon or Washington wines. I don't know about white wines, I cook with them but also drink the same wine with the meal, typically a fish or chicken dinner.

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