We’ve all been there. We bought a bottle of wine with high hopes – maybe it was on sale, maybe it just looked good – but then, you get it home, open it up, take that first highly anticipated sip, only to be disappointed when it’s not worth drinking. What to do? As the first rule of cooking with wine is to not cook with any wine you wouldn’t drink that’s not an option. Tossing it down the drain is one option, but to those of us who pride ourselves on being penny pinchers, that option seems rather wasteful. Putting the wine to use around the house is another option, after all, why should the purchase of a bad bottle of wine be a total waste? The following ideas are easy to do and some are actually fun, but only use the cheap stuff. If you have leftovers from a newly opened good bottle of wine and you don’t want it to go to waste, freeze it in ice cube trays so you have wine cubes handy to add to soups, stews, casseroles and other dishes – cheap stuff can be put to work with these money-saving ideas.
Dye away. Use red wines as a fabric dye. This is a great use for dingy looking towels or sheets that are beginning to lose their whiteness. Use absorbent, light-colored or white materials and allow to soak until desired shade is achieved. Rinse with cold water then launder and dry for burgandy or cabernet-colored curtains, sheets, pillow cases, towels.
Make vinegar. Turning an unwanted bottle of low alcohol (10 percent or less) white wine into vinegar is a great way to reduce waste and ensure that every drop of even a lousy bottle of wine gets used. To make vinegar, simply leave the bottle on a shelf uncorked but covered with cheesecloth for about two weeks. The wine will turn into vinegar that is suitable for cooking, but as it won’t be too tasty, is better used for cleaning. Standard cleaning vinegar is inexpensive to buy – much cheaper then wine – so I wouldn’t recommend making vinegar as a way of saving money. There are more sophisticated methods for making the better quality vinegars – and making good quality vinegar is an art-form. If you do intend to make nice, high quality homemade vinegars for cooking or gifts – then you will need to start with a good quality wine and a proper recipe.
Clean. The vinegar-making step could be eliminated all together, and white wine used as vinegar for general housecleaning. Mix with water in a spray bottle and use it to clean windows, mirrors, floors or counters. White wine has many of the same cleaning properties as vinegar.
Remove stains – Keep a bit of inexpensive white wine on hand for removing red wine or grape juice stains from carpets or clothing.
Make skin sparkle. Because of its antioxidant properties and ability to soften skin, wine is an ingredient that is becoming popular in spas, moisturizers and beauty products. Add a cup or two of white wine or champagne to the bath for a skin softening soak. Wine facials are growing in popularity and are easy to do at home. Most use sulfate-free cabernets or other red wines, but for at home treatments, it might be better to stick to a white wine, like a chardonnay.
Salad dressing. With the right seasoning, a small amount of bad wine can be transormed into a tastey salad dressing. Mix with a bit of olive oil and your favorite herbs to make a snappy salad dressing.