Leftover wine? Not at my house, but...

A few weeks ago, someone asked me, "What do you do with leftover wine... or wine you don't like?" First, let me say this: When people talk about "leftover wine," I usually assume "leftover" is a label name or vineyard. Leftover wine? It just doesn't happen at my house. Secondly: Wine that I don't like is almost non-existent. To be truthful, in my entire wine drinking career, I have disliked fewer than five bottles... But for the sake of folks who crack open a bottle and aren't wowed (or those who like to drink a single glass and don't know what to do with the rest), I do have a few other uses for wine that will not be consumed in its original form.

1.) Sangria
Sangria is a versatile drink because it can be made with many types of wine. Red, white, sweet, dry - you can formulate a sangria recipe to fit almost any type of wine. Here's a handy recipe that is *almost* no fail:

1 bottle "leftover" wine (I find cheap wine makes the best sangria. Really!)
1 cup fruit flavored vodka (Cheap vodka is dangerous... at least go middle of the road here.)
1 of each of the following fruits, sliced in rings: orange, lemon, and lime
enough sweet, sparkling soda (I find Diet Sierra Mist to be perfect) to top off your pitcher

Instructions: Mix first three ingredients in a two quart pitcher. Add soda and gently stir. Serve in balloon goblets filled with ice. Enjoy!

Really, it's that easy. If you're using a very dry wine, you can always decrease the amount of wine and add a little extra soda. If you're using a very sweet wine, substitute club soda (which is not sweet) for the lemon/lime flavored soda. If it's late summer, and peaches are everywhere, substitute a peach for the orange. If you hate wine, omit it completely and enjoy your freshing vodka cocktail.

2.) Mulled Wine
Mulled wine can be tricky. It's easy enough to make - and quite tasty, too. The tricky part is explaining to your husband why you can't find your purse, reiterating how delicious that hot, spicy Kool-Aid was, and asking if it's ok to just lay down for a little while. Yes, folks - it's that tricky. You've been warned! Here's another recipe that's almost no fail:

1 bottle "leftover" red wine (I don't recommend using cheap or white wine in this one)
1/4 cup raw sugar (you can use regular granulated white - but raw sugar really does make everything taste better)
1 bundle mulling spices (try your local grocer - but specialty shops like Whole Foods and World Market usually have them, especially around the holidays)

Instructions: Add all ingredients to a medium pot on the stove and simmer on LOW (if you boil this, the "tricky" part I mention above will go away... and that would really be a shame). Stir frequently at first to ensure the sugar dissolves. Once the wine has reached the desired temperature, serve in mugs and garnish with a cinnamon stick if desired.

3.) Salad Dressing
Red and white wines can be used to make salad dressing - though you probably won't get rid of an entire bottle this way (unless you eat lots of salad...). There are way too many variations of recipes out there, but here are the basics: oil, vinegar, wine, spices. Try experimenting!

4.) Grilling Food
Wine is an awesome way to tenderize meat before it's grilled. The general rule for optimal meat tenderization and flavor is to add acid+alcohol. The darker the meat, the darker the wine needs to be to counter the flavor. Here's a handy little chart I created to help you:

Beef: Dry reds are best.
Pork: Any wine can work with pork - though I never recommend anything in the very sweet category unless you're following a recipe.
Lamb: Really? You have to eat lamb? They're cute and furry! Whatever - marinate lamb in something very full, such as Merlot or Cabernet.
Chicken: For grilling, I find whites taste great and make the chicken most appealing. Red tastes good - but unless you're serving the chicken in sauce, it's going to look a little funky after being marinated (who wants to cut into chicken and find purple weirdness inside? Not me.).
Seafood: Never, ever mix seafood and red wine (really). If you're going to marinate seafood (salmon steaks, perhaps?), always use a light, dry white such as Pinot Grigio.

So the wine is one half of the magical marinade equation. You also need acid to balance the flavor. In general I like to use fruit juice as the acid because it's easy, cheap and it tastes great with wine (wine is made from grapes, you know)! Which fruit juice should you use? That's totally personal preference. Again, the darker the meat - the darker the juice. Cherry or pomegranate tastes great with beef and pork... but pork also works well with citrus juices. Chicken is great with any kind of juice - but as with the wine, unless you're serving the chicken with a sauce, dark juices can make it look funky. I recommend sticking with peach, citrus or light grape. With seafood, go very light to balance the flavor and color. Citrus with any kind of seafood is marvelous.

Don't be afraid to add spices to your marinade! I'm not a huge fan of grill rubs (too salty), but there are lots of pre-mixed salt-free options that are awesome. Complex flavors like sweet and spicy, Jerk, citrus rosemary, etc. are great on the grill.

5.) A Cool Wine-Drinking Friend
Don't ever - EVER pour wine out (unless it's been open and improperly stored in your fridge for weeks, and in that case, shame on you). Why? Because more than likely, you have a very cool wine-drinking friend who would LOVE to finish your wine.

So there you have it! A few easy, delicious ways to get rid of leftover wine. We'd love to hear your suggestions for using wine you don't plan to drink. Have any tasty recipes? Use it to kill slugs in the garden? We may never use your ideas (at least I won't... I've giggled every time I've typed "leftover wine" in this post...), but we'd love to add them to our arsenal of wine knowledge!

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