What to Do with Old Unopened Wine? Pro Tips from Wine Experts

Have you ever had an unopened bottle of wine and didn’t know what to do with it?

Maybe your plans changed or you bought too much. Don’t worry, there are plenty of things you can do with the bottle besides drinking it. Instead of letting it clutter your space, you can repurpose it for entertaining or special events.

In this blog post, we will show you what to do with old unopened wine bottles. Whether you prefer something entertaining, simple, or useful, there is something on your list.

Additionally, we will let you know how to dispose of any unopened wine bottles safely and effectively.

Without further ado, let’s begin with the list!

1. How to check if your wine bottle is expired or not?

If you’re not sure if your red or white wine has gone bad, look for an expiration date on the bottle. If there is no expiration date, check the sealed date, which can give you an idea of how old the wine is.

old wine bottles
Look for an expiration date on the bottle to know the bottles are expired or not. (Source: Bloomberg)

2. How to Determine If Your High-Quality Wine Has Gone Bad

Wine enthusiasts have the ability to detect whether a wine has gone bad or not based on certain qualities. There are three signals that can help determine whether a wine has gone bad.

2.1. Appearance

When wine starts to go bad, there are some visual signs that indicate it.


If a wine that was originally clear becomes cloudy or develops a film inside the bottle, it’s a clear indication that it’s time to dispose of it. Cloudiness suggests that bacteria are starting to grow in the bottle.

Development of Bubbles

When bubbles start to form in your wine, it means that a second fermentation is taking place. However, if your wine is not champagne and you see bubbles, it is a clear signal that your wine may have turned bad and should not be consumed.

Change in Color

Wines, like fruits, can turn brown when they come into contact with oxygen over time. While an unopened wine can naturally change color as it ages, this does not necessarily mean that it has spoiled.

However, it is important to be aware that chemical changes have started to occur in your wine. Therefore, if the wine was not intended to be aged and you notice a color change, it is likely that the wine is no longer of good quality.

2.2. Smell

Changes in the smell of your wine can indicate that it’s time to stop drinking it. The scents can be either unpleasant and medicinal, such as vinegar or chemicals, or sweet, depending on the external factors affecting the wine.

Acetic Acid Scents

If the bacteria in the wine begin to produce acetic acid, you may detect odors that resemble sauerkraut, and vinegar, or are sharp and tangy.

Reduction Odors

Wine can sometimes go bad even before opening it. If that happens, you may detect unpleasant smells such as cabbage, garlic, burnt rubber, or garbage.

Oxidation Smells

When wine undergoes oxidation, it can develop stale odors that may resemble sweet applesauce or burnt marshmallows and caramel. It may also emit nutty scents.

2.3. Taste

If you fail to recognize the signs of spoilage such as changes in appearance and smell, you might experience unpleasant and uncommon tastes in spoiled wine. These can include:

  • Tart or acidic vinegar-like flavors
  • A flavor similar to horseradish
  • Tastes reminiscent of sherry or caramel

3. Tips for safely and effectively disposing of old, unopened wine bottles

The easiest and most common to dispose of unopened wine and bottles is by pouring the wine down the kitchen sink and then recycling the bottles.

While pouring the wine, make sure to run warm water down the drain to dilute any acidic elements.

dispose old unopened wine bottles
The most common way to dispose of unopened wine and its bottles is to pour the wine down the kitchen sink and recycle the bottles. (Source: Internet)

Tips on how to dispose of your old wine safely and effectively:

  • As stated earlier, while disposing of your wine, turn on the faucet and let warm water run down the drain simultaneously. This will help to dilute any acidic components present in the wine, preventing potential damage to your pipes.
  • After pouring the contents down the drain, ensure to clean the inside of the bottle. This will prevent mold growth and potential spillage or staining during recycling.
  • Before taking your cleaned bottles to be recycled, be sure to let them dry first. Doing this will prevent spills and wine stains in your car or on the floor.

Keep reading to discover more useful ways to handle old unopened wine bottles.

4. What to do with old unopened wine? Use old wine for your kitchen

If your wine is still drinkable, you can use it for the below purposes.

4.1. Make marinade

The most common use for a red wine that is close to spoiling is as a marinade for grilling. It’s a simple yet effective way to add flavor to your meat. You just need an unused bottle of wine and some creativity to make a delicious dish.

Try to use a savory marinade made with red wine for your flank steak. Alternatively, for chicken, you can try a unique marinade made with white wine.

make marinade from wine
If you have a red wine that is almost spoiled, it can still be used as a marinade for grilling, which is a popular way to use it. (Source: Internet)

Editor’s note: “I cooked sirloin strip steaks on a charcoal grill after marinating them for at least 4 hours. The marinade was easy to prepare and I used pinot noir as the red wine. The resulting steaks were tasty and tender.”

4.2. Vinegar

Making your own vinegar takes time but the result is worth it. You’ll need wine, a large container, a good “mother,” and about a couple of weeks for this project. People who have tried making their own vinegar say it’s much better than store-bought vinegar.

There is a lot of advice available on the internet, or you can visit a home-brewing or health food store in your area. You can begin by following a recipe or try testing out different methods to utilize leftover wine for producing vinegar.

Our recommended method below will be easy for you to follow.

To make your own wine vinegar, simply leave a mostly full, uncorked bottle of wine in a warm place for a few weeks. The natural oxidation process will create the vinegar.

However, you may encounter fruit flies, so cover the opening of the bottle with a piece of cheesecloth to prevent this. It’s a simple process!

make vinegar from old wine
Homemade vinegar has a milder tang and presents a variety of alternative flavors that are more prominent, while store-bought vinegar can have a harsh or sharp taste. (Source: Internet)

4.3. Sauce

If you don’t like the first two options, consider making a sauce out of your old wine. There are numerous recipes available for you to explore. Take a look at some of them.

  • Fish with White Wine Sauce
  • Quick Red Wine Pasta Sauce
  • Pan-Seared Steak with Red Wine Sauce
  • Creamy Chicken in White Wine Sauce
Making sauce from wine
Making sauce from wine is a fun recipe to make at home. (Source: Internet)

4.4. Dessert

You can also use your old wine to make some desserts like cake, candy, ice cream, white chocolate champagne truffles, or Jelly or Jam with ease.

  • Candy: There are various methods to transform leftover wine into candy, such as creating lollipops, and gumdrops, as well as the popular choice, gummy candies.
  • Ice Cream: You might be familiar with pouring wine over ice cream, but you may not have heard of wine ice cream. It could be worth making a batch and giving it a try!
  • Cake: When it comes to desserts, cakes are usually the first thing people think of. However, it may surprise you to know that you can actually make a cake using old wine.
  • Jam or Jelly: Do you want to enjoy your old wine in a different way? Try turning it into jam or jelly! But the real bonus is that you can now have a wine-flavored breakfast thanks to this simple DIY project.
red wine ice cream
The recipe for this ice cream includes homemade wine, real vanilla beans, cinnamon, and cream. (Source: Internet)

5. Use the Old Wine to Clean

A bottle of old wine can also be used to help remove unwanted items from your house, in addition to easing stress and worries.

5.1. Disinfectant

Did you know that you can use old wine as a disinfectant? Studies show that wine has antibacterial properties that can be effective in cleaning things like fruits and even wounds.

However, it’s best to use other options for wound cleaning before resorting to old wine.

5.2. Grease Remover

Old wine, particularly white wine, can effectively remove grease stains from various surfaces. Using an old red wine variety may not be as effective and could potentially cause another type of stain.

You can use old wine to make disinfectantor grease remover. (Source: Internet)
You can use old wine to make disinfectant
or grease remover. (Source: Internet)

5.3. Fabric Dye

Typically, we prefer to enjoy wine in our bodies, not on our clothes. But in this case, the objective is to stain fabric.

If you have an old shirt, you can transform it by dyeing it with a beautiful red or purple hue. For a more daring approach, you could attempt tie-dyeing.

Alternatively, if you happen to spill wine on your favorite top, dyeing it with leftover wine could be a solution. If using white wine doesn’t remove the stain completely, it presents an opportunity to exercise your creativity.

As the saying goes, if you can’t defeat them, join them – if you’re unable to remove the wine stain, why not embrace it by concealing it with more wine?

Did you know that leftover red wine can be used for tie-dyeing in addition to cooking or drinking?
Did you know that leftover red wine can be used for tie-dyeing in addition to cooking or drinking? (Source: Internet)

5.4. Fruit Fly Trap

If you are not interested in dyeing or tie-dyeing, you can use your old wine to trap fruit flies.

To do this, put a small amount of the old wine in a glass and cover it tightly with cling wrap. Poke some holes in the top to allow the fruit flies to enter the glass.

The wine will attract the fruit flies, but the cling wrap will prevent them from escaping.

You can also use leftover wine to make fruit fly traps.
You can also use leftover wine to make fruit fly traps. (Source: Internet)

5.6. Fertilizer Plant

You can use leftover or unopened wine to fertilize your plants as it contains nitrogen that works well for composting.

Adding red wine to your compost can activate the good bacteria that are already present, which can help your plants or garden grow. However, it’s important to monitor the moisture in your compost bin after adding the wine.

You may need to add some dry ingredients like cardboard to balance out the increased moisture from the wine.

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6. Use the Old Wine on Yourself

6.1. Moisturize Skin

We know that this suggestion might seem unusual, but adding a small amount of red wine to your bath can actually be beneficial for your skin.

The ingredients in the wine can help exfoliate, soften, disinfect, and repair your skin, resulting in a smoother and more flawless appearance.

To give it a try, start by adding one or two cups of wine (or a few of the ice cubes from earlier) to your bathwater.

Red wine facials and skin treatments are becoming a popular trend in many spas, known as Vinotherapy.

If you want to try this at home, dilute red wine with water or rose water before application to prevent skin staining. It’s also possible to find red wine-based cleansers and lotions in the market that can provide appealing results.

6.2. Medicine

To quicken the healing process of a bruise, you can soak a rag or bandage with old wine and place it over the affected area. It’s worth noting that while drinking wine in moderation can be good for heart health, it can also be used topically for other purposes such as skincare and bruise healing.

7. Other uses

You can also use your old unopened wine to decorate your home.

You can use old wine bottles to make flower vases.
You can use old wine bottles to make flower vases. (Source: Internet)
  • Use it as a vase for flowers!

Use dishwasher-safe enamel paint from a craft store to change the color of wine bottles.

First, clean the bottle with soap and water and let it dry. Apply a small amount of the paint’s surface conditioner to prime the glass. Swirl it around to cover the entire bottle, then pour out any excess.

Let the bottle stand upright and dry for an hour. Next, pour enough enamel inside to cover the entire surface.

Finally, dry the bottle upside down for 48 hours and wipe any excess from the rim with a damp cloth during the first hour.

  • Make soap or candle holders

You can also use old bottles of wine to make soap or candle holders. Simply cut the bottle in half with a glass cutting tool and place your candles or soaps inside. You can further decorate it with decorative stones, glitter, ribbons, and other items of your choice.

  • Display photographs

If you’re a fan of photography, you can use old bottles as a creative way to display your pictures.

Cut the bottle and place your photo inside it or write a sweet message with chalkboard paint on the inside wall of the bottle.

  • Terrariums

Succulents have become very popular lately because of their modern appearance and low maintenance requirements.

To plant them in a bottle, put some cactus soil in first, then use chopsticks to carefully add the plants one by one.

Remember to keep the plants inside and away from direct sunlight, and to only water them with a few drops of water every two weeks.

8. Is it okay to dispose of wine by pouring it down the sink?

If you need to dispose of more than two bottles of wine, it is better to pour them out gradually instead of doing it all at once.

Pouring too much alcohol down the sink pipes can harm the septic system and the environment. This applies to beer as well, not just wine.

Nonetheless, pouring small amounts down the sink is generally safe.

To avoid any harm to the septic system or the environment, make sure you stick to the two-bottle wine rule mentioned earlier.

If you have alcohol with a higher concentration, such as bourbon or whiskey, you should dispose of them differently.

Check the concentration of the substance and make sure it’s no more than 24% to stay on the safe side.

9. Is it safe to dispose of wine by pouring it down the toilet?

You can pour wine into your toilet without worrying about damaging your septic system due to the alcohol content. However, if you want to be cautious, start by pouring only one bottle and observe what happens.

It is believed that alcohol has good antiseptic properties, which can make it a useful household item.

You can use vodka instead of chemical sprays to get rid of mold. Another alternative is pouring a bottle of coke down a clogged drain, letting it fizz for an hour, and then flushing it with hot water. The phosphoric acid in Coke helps unclog the drain.

10. What is the proper way to dispose of unopened wine bottles?

To dispose of unopened wine bottles, you need to open the bottle and pour out the wine before disposing of them.

The good news is that you can recycle wine bottles as they are made of glass, which is a recyclable material.

It should be noted that wine bottle recycling is not well-established yet. This means that your state may not have a specific policy for collecting wine bottles. To confirm whether your state recycles wine bottles, you should check the relevant regulations.

11. Does California Recycle Wine Bottles?

Starting in July 2024, wine and liquor bottles will be incorporated into California’s recycling rebate program. Even though currently California does not recycle wine bottles, this new law aims at addressing the issues with the state’s bottle bill recycling program which has been deficient for the last 40 years due to the high number of bottles generated. Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins recently highlighted the need for this change.

This legislation will have a significant impact as California produces over 1 billion wine and liquor bottles annually.

Governor Gavin Newsom has signed Atkins’ bill into law to expand California’s recycling program to include wine and spirits containers. Previously, only beer cans and bottles were included in the program. Consumers pay five cents for a 12-ounce bottle or can and ten cents for containers over 24 ounces.

In addition to wine and spirit bottles and cans, the recently passed law now requires a 25-cent deposit and refund for wine and spirits sold in boxes, bags, or pouches. Recycling your wine bottles is now a simple and enjoyable process!

12. FAQs

Can unopened wine spoil or expire?

Unopened bottles of red wine can typically last for 2-3 years beyond the recommended drinking period. This is possible due to their high tannin content which enables natural preservation. To ensure that they last longer, it is advisable to store them in a cool, dark place away from sunlight.

Does the aging process of wine continue while it is stored in the bottle?

Yes, that’s right! After the initial fermentation, the wine keeps evolving and changing even after it is bottled and sold. The process only stops when the cork is opened.

Is it possible for bacteria to develop in wine?

Certain types of bacteria, namely Lactobacillus and Pediococcus, can thrive in wine. In wines with high pH levels, these bacteria are commonly responsible for breaking down malate. Even after malolactic fermentation in dry wines, these bacteria can remain active with just a small amount of sugar, enabling them to significantly multiply in number.

Can spoiled wine be used for cooking?

While it’s important to store wine properly (such as in a sealed bottle in the refrigerator with minimal oxygen exposure), it’s still safe to use slightly oxidized wine that can no longer be consumed for cooking purposes.

Is it safe to use wine that has become vinegar?

If your wine has turned into vinegar, you can still make use of it. Although it may taste sour and have a high acidity level, it can be used as a substitute for vinegar in cooking or cleaning. Drinking it might cause a burning sensation in your throat.

Is it possible for wine that has not been opened to turn into vinegar?

When expensive wine bottles are not stored properly, they can spoil and taste like vinegar. This is because oxygen can get inside a bottle and react with alcohol, causing the wine to turn into vinegar. Poor or defective corks and storing wine upright instead of on its side can cause this to happen.

Final Words

We recently provided some ways for utilizing unopened bottles of wine that are no longer fresh. We hope this information was helpful. Please check out our other resources if you have any additional inquiries. Thank you and cheers!

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