Sunday, August 19, 2012
A Few Good Uses For Bad Wine
With as much wine as I drink, and report, you can only imagine how much bad wine I get to taste. You will never know which, because my no-scorched-earth policy doesn’t allow me to write bad stuff. (For those who want to know which wines not to drink just look for the ones I don’t write about.) Nonetheless, I do get to taste some pretty nasty stuff from time to time.
So, the question really comes up about what to do about a bottle of bad wine. What do you do with stuff you don’t drink? Well...I have a few suggestions. You can use them or toss them any way you see fit.
First, there needs to be a discussion about “bad” wine. There is a big difference between “bad” and “BADDDDD!”. My first rule of thumb is to never do anything except dump and throw away wine that has a barnyard odor or flavor. If it tastes or smells like the working end of a cow, throw it away. It is likely to have a bad bacteria that may or may not make you sick.
Also, if a wine is strangely bubbly it is likely struggling with a bad bacteria. One way to know if it has this problem is if the cork is pushed out from the pressure inside the bottle. I’m not talking here about sparkling wines. I’m talking about wines that shouldn’t sparkle when you drink them. Once again, dump them or take them back to the place you bought them. Of course, my dear departed grandmother would have suggested that you rub that vinegar on your body to relieve arthritis and joint pain. (Don't knock it. She lived to her 90s!)
Now that we’ve talked about the crap you can’t do anything with, let’s talk about what you can work with. In most cases we’re talking about wines that are either too hot from a high balance of alcohol, wine with too much sulfur dioxide, or wines that are old in the bottle or oxydized by too much air from an opened bottle.
Wines that have been sitting in the bottle for many years will often open up a little skunky initially. They are old and have been sitting a long time. Much like an old root cellar or closet they just need to get some air. I recommend that you just decant the wine or use an aerator to infuse air into it.
Wine that smells like eggs when you open it happens quite often, especially in wines that are from other countries. They have had to infuse extra sulfites during bottling. Just like old wine I recommend decanting. In both cases if the wine is still skunky...Cook it!
A wine that just can’t be consumed even after you have tried to fix it, or one that you got too tipsy and forgot to vacuum or preserve from the night before are great wines for cooking.
One of my favorite uses of red wine is to make spaghetti sauce. Another is my wine reduction barbecue sauce. For whites, they are great for poaching fish or using in soup stock.
My spaghetti sauce is easy. Brown Italian sausage in olive oil over medium heat. Put in garlic, onion, mushrooms, and peppers. When the meat is crispy and the veggies are tender pour in a bottle of your favorite brand of canned spaghetti sauce. Rinse the bottle with about 1 cup of your “bad” wine. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour. People will think you and Uncle Guido worked at it for hours!