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  • The Chopping Blog

Find Joy in Decluttering Wine

Mary Ross
Posted by Mary Ross on Mar 15, 2023


From our home screens to entire rooms to our entire lives, decluttering is a trend that’s taken hold. But judging by all the people who tell me “I have so much wine sitting around,” it’s time for tips about decluttering wine.

It’s Alive! (Or it should be.)

Wine is a living, breathing entity until it’s not. Great wine - accounting for about 1% of world production - develops for decades with pristine storage including consistent temperature and humidity. The other 99% is made to be enjoyed within about three years of its harvest date. And when wine is wrenched from its original cellar, it’s subject to lots of inconsistency - hot trucks, hot warehouses, and the rack on top of your vibrating refrigerator - all of which sucks the life out of wine. When wine is past its prime, you’re left with bulky magnets for dust and pests, maybe cases of them! So, let’s spark some of the joy promised by lifestyle guru Marie Kondo and tidy up your wine.

Old WinePitch or Pop 

Get ready to pitch bottles over five years old. (In other words, in 2023, if the vintage date is 2018 or before, it’s probably a goner.) If you’re certain the wine is age-worthy and it’s been stored correctly, check the cork. If it’s bulging, collapsed into the bottle or moves with a push from your thumb, the wine is exposed to oxygen and deterioration. Next, check the bottle neck and label. If they’re sticky, wine is leaking out and air is leaking in, ditto deterioration. In any of these cases, pitch it.

Mary wine

This is a favorite bottle that I’m pitching or popping tonight!

Maybe the wine has sentimental value, purchased for your birth year for instance. Unless online vintage reports for that vintage and region are rated “excellent”, pitch it. (My dad, a Bordeaux lover, despaired that I was born in 1952, rated “generally a nice vintage.”) Maybe it’s leftover from a BYO party. Maybe the wine is a souvenir from a long-past trip. I promise, it won’t taste the same as it did in that cute Paris bistro or by the campfire on your glamping adventure. Pitch it.

If you can’t bring yourself to dispose of these bottles outright, pop the cork and taste. If you aren’t eager and excited to drink the wine that night with dinner, pitch it.

Reduce, Re-use, Re-Cycle

During the winter holidays, I encourage taking advantage of deep sales and stocking up. Otherwise, in a dynamic market like Chicagoland, there’s little need to buy wine more than a week in advance. If you’re a wine club member and not polishing off each shipment, cancel the subscription.

For wine that’s nearing its end, cook with it. A bottle of wine morphs chicken or beef stew into Coq au Vin or Boeuf a la Bourguignon. These dishes can be prepared and frozen for a delicious future treat. A glass of wine makes delicious sauce when poured into a pan that seared a steak. If there’s no time to cook, freeze the wine in ice cube trays or larger container. (Please note: cooking removes most of the alcohol from a dish, but not 100%. Be sure to check with guests that alcohol consumption is okay.)

Wine in Ice Cube TraysAn ancient use for wine is ‘vin aigre’, i.e. vinegar. Recipes abound online, but I have never been successful making wine vinegar. If you’d like to try, see our blog When Good Things Go Bad: The Art of Vinegar.

The success of reselling household items online may tempt you to sell your wine at auction. In fact, Chicago is home to wine auction house Hart Davis Hart Wine Company, as well as a Christie’s office. Be advised, this process is more involved than uploading a photo of your old couch, including detailing your bottle’s provenance, i.e., a guarantee of every step the bottle took from its producer to your door. Again, unless storage has been pristine and vintage reports are stellar, pitch or pop.

Opening WineWhat Not to Do with Old Wine

Don’t drink it. Spoiled wine rarely causes illness but is high in acetaldehyde and acetic acid, i.e. that vin aigre. Imagine how your tummy would feel drinking a glass of vinegar, even from your finest crystal. Don’t cook with it. Far from adding complexity, cooking with spoiled wine concentrates off-flavors & imbues them throughout your dish. Don’t bring it as a hostess gift unless you don’t want to be invited back. 

Keep or Cut? 

To learn the qualities of wine to keep or cut, join me on Friday, April 21 to Unlock the Secrets of Wine. From 6:30pm to 8pm, we’ll practice the tasting technique wine professionals use to get the most out of every sip, sampling 5 international wines, complemented by wine-friendly noshes. 

Register now

Make Tonight a Special Occasion 

Every once in awhile, you’ll get lucky. That leaky, old bottle may have a last gasp that defies expectations. Once the cork is popped, though, you may only have a few minutes, so get ready to celebrate! After that, the final step of re-use, reduce and re-cycle will take care of itself. 

See all of our Wine Classes

Topics: Wine, declutter

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