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In the answers to the popular question What defines cooking wine? one common recommendation seems to be to simply use regular wine.

However, it seems that wine goes bad in a few days. I don't consume wine, except for cooking wine, which from the answers to the above question seems to be a suboptimal choice.

Hence the follow-up question: How can I increase the shelf life of regular wine? Is it possible that a wine that has gone bad/sour is still useful for cooking while it is unfit for drinking?

The closest answer I could find is linked below. There the recommendation is vermouth. But that perhaps is a preference. I am curious if there's a simple answer to elongate shelf life where a wine can be used for months for cooking. https://cooking.stackexchange.com/a/3034/33912

My primary use case is Adam Ragusea's veg soup recipe. Currently I am using cooking wine (with a fair bit of salt as well as potassium sorbate and potassium metabisulfite).

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    I can tell you what I do. When I open a bottle, I use one of those simple wine savers to reseal the bottle and keep it in the fridge. I've got a bottle that I've been using for around a month. It still tastes ok.
    – Billy Kerr
    Dec 25, 2021 at 13:12
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    It does not answer the question but it may be relevant to the issue you're facing: here in France, cooking wine is sometimes sold in smaller bottles than regular wine - 20 or 30 cl instead of the regular 75cl . They are in cheaper material (plastic or cardboard) and closer to the quantities usually required for cooking. I do not know if this is the case everywhere.
    – SylvainD
    Dec 25, 2021 at 21:10
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    I buy screw-top, cheap supermarket table wine to cook with. The opened bottle goes back in my wine rack with no other precaution or consideration. I've never had one go vinegary, even after a couple of months or so.
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 26, 2021 at 17:08
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    I always figured you drink it while cooking. If you wouldn't drink it then why are you cooking with it?
    – MonkeyZeus
    Dec 27, 2021 at 19:57
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    I usually buy wines in glass+cork bottles and, after using it, I simply gently hammer the cork back to the bottle and keep it in my pantry, which is closed (= dark) most of the time, and they last a month or more. Dec 29, 2021 at 13:10

6 Answers 6

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Freeze it in cubes and use it as required. Wine should be low-alcohol enough to freeze in a regular freezer, although you might find you get 'slushier' parts – if you do, these will have a higher alcohol concentration – so be careful about the container you use.

To answer your other questions, wine going 'bad' is a taste issue rather than a food safety issue, so if the wine tastes fine to you it is fine to cook with and if it tastes bad to you I wouldn't cook with it. Sure, you might put sour wine into a recipe and notice the sourness less than if you just drank it, but it's certainly not improving your food at that point and I wouldn't use it.

I will say that when people say wine lasts only a few days they're often taking from the perspective of someone with a very particular palette, and if you're aiming at 'tastes like wine' you'll likely be fine for at least a week, keeping it sealed in the fridge to slow oxidation.

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  • Have you tried this wine freezing trick, dbmag9? It is a new one to me.
    – Willk
    Dec 26, 2021 at 4:07
  • @Willk No, I like drinking wine and when I don't want to open a whole bottle I usually use a substitute. But I've done this with stock (which also doesn't freeze perfectly, for different reasons) and it worked fine.
    – dbmag9
    Dec 26, 2021 at 10:06
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    If you add the wine for a sour note, wine that has gone off for drinking can do well in food.
    – Willeke
    Dec 27, 2021 at 7:12
  • Agreed on the point about palette-specific taste being the main issue. Personally when I read the linked suggestion about Vermouth it made me gag - I can't stand it after just a few days.
    – Darren
    Dec 27, 2021 at 15:14
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    +1 but: IME red (being a bit stronger than white) doesn't freeze quite solid - it looks solid but still flows and stains the inside of the fridge if it leaks. I prefer to use individual lidded containers of around 100-200ml, then I can defrost a pot or two rather than half a tray of ice cubes. (@Willk it works very well)
    – Chris H
    Dec 28, 2021 at 10:46
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Small bottles.

small bottles

These bottles are 187 ml which is 6 ounces each. This 4 pack costs $2. You will use one bottle to cook and discard what you don't use from that bottle. The other 3 will wait their turn and stay good while they do.

You will not find fancy wine in 6 oz bottles. You will find cheap wine. That is the kind of wine you should be cooking with.

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    What you find in small bottles and what price depends on where you are, here the small bottles often cost as much as the cheap full size bottles.
    – Willeke
    Dec 26, 2021 at 6:55
  • @Willeke - Road trip!
    – Willk
    Dec 26, 2021 at 17:04
  • It is the air/oxygen in the headspace that makes the wine go bad, so the smaller head space keeps it good longer. You can also re-use these small bottles to save a bit of wine. The small wine boxes will work too, and since the boxes are flexible, you can squeeze out excess air from a partially used box easier than you can with a small bottle.
    – Dave X
    Dec 27, 2021 at 21:35
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There are 'bag in box' wine packages around, easy to find in some places but harder to find in others.
With those no air comes into the container keeping the wine good for a much longer time.

They were almost standard in Australia when/where I visited back in 2005, I am not sure how much they have spread around the world.

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    These will keep for 3-4 weeks - much longer than a bottle - but they also tend to come in large packages (I don't know about elsewhere but most of the ones sold in the UK and Germany are 3l or 5l boxes). My guess is that for someone like the OP who doesn't drink wine that means it will end up being no better than a bottle in their use case. Dec 26, 2021 at 12:35
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For the sake of posterity, I'm going to make one more suggestion here:

Buy moderately priced wine with a screw cap, use what you need, and leave the rest, tightly closed, in the pantry.

If your pantry is kept temperate (15-24C), the half-used bottle of wine will keep for months to a couple of years. It won't be good enough to drink, but it will be OK to cook with.

Occasionally wine turns to vinegar or goes strongly off in ways that prevent cooking with it. I find that it's sufficient to keep a backup bottle of cooking wine for that. Yes, freezing wine, refrigerating it, or vac-packing it will allow it to keep for longer, but frankly aren't necessary unless you live somewhere tropical.

I drink wine, and keep leftover half-bottles to cook with, and have been doing the above for years without real issues.

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    I don't disagree with this in general but I think there's definitely variability between wines. I've had bottles of red that I've kept sealed in the fridge and still weren't enjoyable (to the extent I wouldn't want to cook with) after a week or so, and I don't have a very refined palate for wine.
    – dbmag9
    Dec 27, 2021 at 21:28
  • Yeah, we could go into selecting a good cooking wine but that's a completely different question ...
    – FuzzyChef
    Dec 28, 2021 at 5:00
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Alcohol that is exposed to oxygen in the air will turn to vinegar, this is what stops it being drinkable. A bottle at room temperature can be left open for 12-48 hours, depending on a person's taste for tart vinegary things. If you close a partially drunk bottle, it should be fine to drink for 2-7 days on the same vinegar taste preference basis. Refrigeration will push everything here significantly longer, and anything that either prevents new air getting to the wine (any kind of lid), or sucks out air (like a vacuum pump cap) will also significantly extend the life span.

Wine that has turned to vinegar (but kept closed) should actually keep for quite a long time. I often have a closed half bottle of wine knocking around the kitchen for over a month before using it. If the wine goes bad, it should be visibly cloudy or have an obvious off smell (more than vinegar). If you really need to be sure, adding salt to the wine should make it last longer, say at the rate of 1/2 -3 tspn to a full bottle (3 is pretty damned salty). The problem with adding salt to the wine is that a) you have to remember & adjust future recipes based on this, and b) any recipes that call for reducing cooking wine will be very very salty.

I happen to like tart or vinegary food, but I do not at all like tart wine. This means that I often have & happily use old wine in cooking and have maybe only once in my life thrown away wine.

Final note : the reason why cheap /low quality wine is used for cooking is that the "fine flavours" of top notch wine evaporate very easily. This is both why low alcohol wine is difficult to make very good, and why good vs bad wine for cooking makes little difference.

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    "A bottle at room temperature can be left open for 12-48 hours, depending on a person's taste for tart vinegary things." Er, what? Wine turns to vinegar in 2 days? What's the ambient temperature of your kitchen?
    – FuzzyChef
    Dec 27, 2021 at 20:08
  • @FuzzyChef It doesn't have to all turn to vinegar, just enough to be unpalatable. Having left a few accidentally uncorked wine bottles around, I know that overnight uncorked wine is OK for me but not my girlfriend, and that 2 day uncorked wine has in the past tasted off to me. As I wrote this I think this may say more about the cheap wine I had than my flats temperature Dec 28, 2021 at 13:42
  • Ciaran: are you just leaving these bottles open, without closing them in any way?
    – FuzzyChef
    Dec 29, 2021 at 3:11
  • @FuzzyChef yes, hence "an open bottle" will keep 12-48hrs, and in the next sentence a closed but partially empty bottle will keep 2-7 days. Obviously I mostly close the bottle in my own home. I was trying to give a comprehensive answer, though I obviously haven't made that clear. Dec 29, 2021 at 13:23
  • Edited my answer to be slightly clearer Dec 29, 2021 at 13:25
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Wine goes off because it oxidises, you can avoid this by pumping the air out of the bottle using something like Vacu Vin (I presume cheaper alternatives are now available and probably work fine, that's just the brand I've used). These devices consists of a rubber "cork" with a valve that goes into the wine bottle, and a pump which allows you to pump (most) of the air out of the bottle. Thus pumped and sealed the wine will keep for weeks without noticeably degrading, especially when refrigerated.

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