The Last Thing You Should Do with an Unfinished Bottle of Wine

published Jul 9, 2023
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Various wines on tabletop.
Credit: Sarah Crowley

I’m one of those weird people who always has leftover wine (yes, we exist!). I drink a glass, my husband drinks a glass, and then there are still two or three glasses left over. I dutifully place a wine stopper in the bottle — and then ultimately throw out the wine a few days later. 

Wine isn’t cheap, and I hate wasting it, so when I saw this TikTok about storing leftover wine, I desperately wanted what she said to be true. Sommelier Warner Boin (@confidenceuncorked) says that if we’re putting the cork back on the unfinished bottle, we’re doing it wrong. There’s too much air in the bottle and the wine won’t keep as well, due to oxidation. Boin recommends storing the wine in a Mason jar instead, screwing the lid tightly, and making sure the jar is almost full of wine to reduce the amount of air inside. If this hack works, it means I probably don’t need to splurge on a wine pump — and my wine won’t go to waste so frequently. 

Credit: Meg Asby

While I did follow Boin’s advice, I didn’t trust my own taste buds to test the method myself. I reached out to Sarah Tracey, sommelier at The Lush Life, to get her take. She agreed that transferring wine to an airtight container “will definitely help preserve the longevity of leftover wine — as long as you transfer it quickly.” She notes that it’s best to store the excess right after you pour your own glass (or glasses). If you wait and leave the open bottle on the counter for hours before storing, the wine will begin to break down from the oxygen exposure. Tracey also emphasizes the need to

refrigerate leftover wine

I asked Tracey if sommeliers ever drink leftover wine (read: Is protecting the wine from oxidation worth the trouble?). “Even as a sommelier,” she says, “there are times I’d rather finish a partial bottle that’s been open in my fridge rather than open a fresh bottle … most of the time, it’s good enough.” She notes that while wine “may lose some of its zip and freshness as the days go by, it doesn’t really spoil in a way that’s toxic for your body. Alcohol is, after all, a preservative.” Tracey’s advice? “As long as it tastes OK to you, it’s fine to drink.” 

There are other options for leftover wine, according to Tracey, including this restaurant secret: Make sangria with it! “Leftover wine might taste a little flat or lackluster on its own, but combining it with brandy and fresh fruit will give that boost of flavor,” she says. You can also freeze wine into ice cubes, which are perfect for the next time you need to deglaze a pan for a rich sauce. 

My go-to will likely be freezing the leftover wine, but if I have a surplus of wine cubes, I’ll definitely try the jar method or make sangria. But whether I’m filling an ice cube tray or a Mason jar, I’m definitely no longer wasting perfectly good wine.  

What do you do with leftover wine?