As the only one in my household who likes wine, I seem to amass partially-consumed bottles of everything from vinho verde to big, unapologetic Burgundies, from cava to Brunello di Montalcino. I used to sigh at the waste and pour them out when they spoiled, but the frugal Northeasterner in me rebelled. After years of self-guided therapy, here are five things you can do in this unenviable situation.
If your wine isn't very old, but you can start to taste the oxidation, add sugar. Sangría is a wine punch made from wine, fruit and sugar; with the competing flavors and the sweetness, you won't be able to tell the wine was corked in your fridge for a few days. While most sangría is made from red wine, you can make white wine sangría with white or light-colored fruits. Enjoy at brunch; sangría is one of the few alcoholic beverages you can drink politely before noon.
2. Coq au vin
Another way to disguise old wine by adding flavors, this dish involves marinating a tough old rooster in red wine, then cooking it with bacon, mirepoix (finely diced onions, celery and carrots), thyme, stock, tomato paste, pearl onions and mushrooms. While the recipe is traditionally made in large quantities (a whole 3 kg/6.6 lb. rooster requires two bottles), there's no reason you can't adapt for the amount left in your bottle and use cut-up chicken parts.
3. Make vinegar.
Wine left exposed to air will turn to vinegar without any human intervention. It will take a long time, however, and no one knows whether it'll be any good. What you can do to hasten the inevitable and assure its quality is add a splash of good red wine vinegar to your wine. It will turn it much more quickly, and much more reliably. If you're really into this idea, you can mix half red wine and half red wine vinegar in a bucket, then collect the slimy scum that comes off; this is mother of vinegar, and if you put it in wine it will turn it to vinegar in almost no time at all.
4. Freeze it!
If you know you're not going to use the wine before it truly goes off the deep end, put it in ice cube trays and freeze it. One cube of frozen wine is the perfect amount to add to a marinara sauce made from one 28-oz. can of good tomatoes. Just make sure you double-bag the wine cubes after you freeze them; freezers always have some truly funky tastes running through them.
5. Poach fruit (or eggs).
Another cop-out using sugar. Put sugar and wine in a pot and bring it to a boil. Add fruit–peeled pears are traditional, but apples, peaches and berries work too–and lower to the barest simmer. If you're using pears, stand each poached pear in a bowl and add vanilla ice cream (or custard) and chocolate sauce and you've got the classic French dessert poires belle Hélène. Of course, if you're Dee Nguyen of Laguna Hills' Break of Dawn restaurant, you poach eggs in wine, but you probably use wine opened for that purpose, rather than leftovers.