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The Best Way to Save Leftover Wine

By Cook's Illustrated Published January 2014

We've suggested freezing leftover wine in ice cube trays to use later in pan sauces, but is freezing a good way to store it for drinking?

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We tried freezing Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon. We poured each of these wines into Mason jars, leaving just 3/4 inch of space between the wine and the top of the jar. After one week, we thawed and compared each one against week-old samples that we had stored in the refrigerator, sealed the same way in Mason jars. All the samples tasted flat and less vibrant compared with freshly opened bottles of the same wines—but the previously frozen samples seemed to have even less flavor than the refrigerated wines. Furthermore, we noticed something we hadn’t in the past when freezing wine for pan sauces: There was a layer of sediment at the bottom of the jar of each frozen sample. It turns out that the freeze/thaw process causes tannins, polyphenols, and other aromatic compounds in the wine to form crystals that fall out of solution. We found that heating reintegrates these compounds—fine if you are making a pan sauce, but obviously not an option for wine that you intend to drink.

To store wine (both red and white) for drinking, your best bet is to keep it in the refrigerator in an airtight container with as little air space as possible at the top and for no more than two or three days. Minimizing air space will limit the wine’s exposure to oxygen and its dulling effect on flavor, while the refrigerator will slow what oxidation does occur. Besides using a Mason jar, we also recommend pouring leftovers into an empty wine half bottle or resealing the bottle with a vacuum wine sealer.