The other night, we were so excited to open a bottle of wine that is delicious (and has a bit of nostalgia attached to it: it was one of the wines we fell in love with during our first trip to Spain). We opened the bottle, and immediately knew: the cork was dry, and the wine emanated that “cardboard” smell that is indicative of corked wine. Bummer!

This happens often, actually. Cork taint is real, my friends. It’s real, and it affects a decent percentage of bottles (which is why some winemakers have switched to synthetic corks: read about the difference here).

You will notice that most of these ideas involve recipes for cooking with the wine. Many people have heard the “don’t cook with what you wouldn’t drink” rule, which is a nice general rule of thumb, but most of these recipes involve adding sugar and spices to the wine, which mask the flavor. And there is absolutely no risk in drinking corked wine: University of Bordeaux enologist Pascal Chatonnet says, “Don’t worry about your health! There is absolutely no risk. However, there is also no pleasure in tainted wines.”

What to do with bad wine

  1. Make sangria. Throw whatever fruits or juices you have in the house into the wine, add some ice, and you’re good to go. Go crazy with these awesome recipes from Food and Wine.
  2. Make mulled wine. If it’s colder weather and you’re not in the mood for sangria, throw in some spices, heat the wine, and enjoy. The Germans are known for doing Christmas right, including mulled wine, so try a German recipe.
  3. Cook with it. Make a stew, cook down some mushrooms . . . yes, it’s ideal to “use the wine you would drink” when you cook, but we’re being practical here.
  4. Make formage fort, a wine and cheese spread. When working at an upscale restaurant, the chef would come to the bar and ask me for some leftover wine. I’d give him a few bottles and he would add it to leftover cheeses, mix them with garlic and spices, let them sit . . . and in a day or two, he had a delicious wine and cheese spread. Practical and delicious. Try this recipe from Smitten Kitchen.
  5. Use it as a dye. Do you have a slightly dingy t-shirt that you still love? Wine might actually make it wearable again. If the hipsters are aging their jeans in bourbon barrels, then certainly you can pull off a wine-soaked tee.
  6. Make a red wine simple syrup. Red wine simple syrup is delicious in cocktails, and there’s a reason it has the word “simple”: it’s wine and sugar. No frills. Easy peasy.
  7. Make red wine vinegar. Cook up a batch, and then head over to the BBC, which offers a plenty of recipes for your new vinegar.
  8. Be super Spanish: mix it with Coke.
  9. Simmer it with pears. These are filled with mascarpone. Yum! 
  10. Compost it. I don’t compost (I live in a condo), but gardeners swear by it, and also by mixing it with equal parts water and spraying it on the soil. It apparently improves the soil and the plants.