You may think leftovers aren’t stylish, but think again, because who is more fabulous than the French?

I was recently in Southern France, working on recipes for a new book. One of the recipes called for wine. My generous French hosts pulled out a very old bottle from their wine cellar, a 1973 Burgundy pinot noir. No time like the present, right? Normally, you wouldn’t use a 47-year-old wine (!) for “just a sauce.” However, due to a number of moves and dramatic temperature and humidity fluctuations that this wine and a few of its brethren had experienced, my hosts knew the wine was past its peak, passé, as they say in French.

Uses You Never Knew About

Since the Middle Ages, the French have used “old” wine (le vin passé) to deglaze foods stuck to pans and for sauces of all kinds: in general: red wine for meat dishes and white wine for fish dishes. Also, white wine, according to Le Monde newspaper, is good for cleaning stains – Who knew? (The French!)

In French kitchens traditionally, nothing was thrown out. Everything had its use: leftover vegetable ends and leftover pieces of meat from other dishes would end up in soup, pot au feu. In France, you also never throw out wine, there is always a use for it! Eating in the times of Covid-19 has made us more aware of our limited resources, so repurposing kitchen resources can be very helpful if not obligatory.

So rather than throw that 1973 wine away, we employed it in a slow-cooking stew recipe, namely for beef cheeks. For stewed, meat-based recipes such as boeuf bourguignon and coq au vin, leftover wine, or even “corked” wine (wine that has spoiled) are often recommended.

If you are opening a bottle of wine for a recipe, then drink the rest with the meal, if it is “unspoiled” rather than flat, dull, astringent, or else not exuding with full aroma. A newly opened bottle of “good” wine can last for several days in the refrigerator, with at least some of its flavors and aromas intact.

Make Your Own Vinegar

Should you have wine leftovers in a bottle that you couldn’t finish and are not cooking into a stew in the next few days, save it! Cover the top enough to let air in but keep dust out, and allow the wine to turn to vinegar. You can even mix it with other store-bought vinegar to help it “turn” to vinegar. Some chefs create new vinegars and flavors this way! You can use this vinegar for cleaning or even for bone broth or stew recipes that call for vinegar. Vinegar is a great cleaning agent, especially when combined with baking soda. Wine in all its forms is truly wonderful!

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About Tania Teschke

Tania Teschke is a writer and photographer who is passionate about French food and wine and is the author of The Bordeaux Kitchen,: An Immersion into French Food and Wine, Inspired by Ancestral Traditions. Tania has learned from cooks, butchers, chefs, and winemakers in France and holds a diploma in wine science and tasting from the University of Bordeaux. Tania continues to explore the deep connection the French have to their land, their cultural heritage, and to the nutritional density of their foods.

View all posts by Tania Teschke

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