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From dregs to riches: How to use up your leftover wine and champagne this Christmas

While leftover wine may seem like a foreign concept to many of us over the festive period, even the most seasoned of fizz drinkers sometimes have a bottle or two sitting unfinished. From mouth-watering recipes to household hacks, Steve King from Bottled and Boxed shares his top tips on how to make the most of your wine so that you never waste a drop again.

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It might be the most wonderful time of the year, but Christmas can also be one of the most wasteful. With almost seven million tons of food thrown away each year, one way to be more mindful of your waste over the festive period is to find alternative uses for any leftover bottles that have lost their sparkle. We’ve rounded up our favourite hacks on how to make the most out of your wine and champers this Christmas to save it from going down the drain.

Get creative in the kitchen

The most tried and tested method for using up your leftover wine has always been to include it in your cooking, because really, the opportunities are as endless as your imagination. Adding a dash of booze can help you achieve richer sauces and bolder flavours in both your sweet and savoury dishes, bringing something different to your midweek meal.

Savoury dishes

A great way to use up the last of your red wine is to incorporate it into your tomato sauce. Whether it’s a spaghetti Bolognese or penne arrabbiata, adding a glug of full-bodied merlot or even a slightly lighter chianti livens up your sauce and can add a real depth to its flavour. Along with a splash of balsamic vinegar and a generous handful of fresh herbs, adding a glass of vino can bring a richness to your favourite dishes that you didn’t even know they needed.

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While reds generally lend themselves to spicy, tomato-based dishes or those using red meat, white wines pair perfectly with fish and seafood. The sauce accompanying a bowl of mussels or a fillet of seabass should allow the taste of fresh, high-quality seafood to shine through without masking it. Whip up a simple sauce by mixing your leftover white wine with cream, garlic, and complementary herbs like parsley or dill to get the authentic bistro experience at home.

Don’t just stop at main meals! For extra green points, if you have a bag of onions that look a little past their prime, then why not make your own caramelised onions with a kick? Simmer your onions with a sprinkle of salt, brown sugar, vinegar, and a few generous glugs of red and you’ll have a homemade chutney that cost you next to nothing. Little jars of these boozy caramelised onions with handwritten labels also make great party favours or stocking fillers for your friends and family, as they’re the perfect garnish to have on-hand to spice up any burger, salad, or pizza.

Sweet treats

If you have more of a sweet tooth, then you’ll already know how well a glass of wine goes with a rich dessert. When you find yourself with an unfinished bottle in the house, take this opportunity to cut out the middleman and incorporate that leftover vino straight into your next sweet treat.

As well as from being an excellent (and delicious) dose of antioxidants, red wine and chocolate are a match made in flavour-heaven. A glug of red or a dessert wine adds a tipsy twist to your favourite brownie or chocolate cake recipe, and it ensures they come out of the oven fluffy and moist. And don’t forget, ’tis the season for mulled wine: a delightfully festive way to use up any bottle of red is to warm it up on the stove with cinnamon sticks, star anise, sliced oranges, cloves, and a dash of sugar. Enjoy by the mug or use your mulled wine to poach fruit like pears and berries for a slightly lighter Christmas dessert.

Don’t worry, we didn’t forget about the fizz. Prosecco and champagne pair well with berries and white chocolate, so they can help make the most decadent desserts like homemade truffles. Although they look impressive and intricate, making truffles is simpler than you may expect as they generally consist of just a handful of ingredients. Adding a few tablespoons of champagne or prosecco to your truffle mix adds some sparkle and a boozy aftertaste that make a box of these bitesize treats a great gift idea.

Household hacks

If you’re not cooking or baking with it straight away, getting smart with the way you store your leftover wine allows you to get even more out of it. Freezing wine in an ice cube tray helps with portion sizes if your recipe only calls for a tablespoon or two, and ready-made champagne ice cubes make the perfect addition to any sparkling cocktail.

Although there are some seriously delicious recipes out there, using up our leftover wine doesn’t always have to entail eating or drinking it. For instance, when mixed with baking soda, white wine can become a surprisingly efficient cleaning tool around the house: the alcohol can aid in killing bacteria like salmonella from our countertops and can even help to remove tough stains (Body Ecology). Cleaning with natural products like white wine may not only be the more sustainable option for the planet, but steering away from chemicals can also be far kinder on our skin. Or, if you need a hand in the garden, tip the dregs from your last bottle of vino onto your compost heap, as the yeast in wine (and beer) is said to help in activating the bacteria needed for healthy compost (Gardening Know How).             

Don’t forget the bottle

When getting the most out of your wine, don’t neglect the vessel it came in. While simply recycling old wine bottles is perfectly fine, a sweet way of using leftover bottles is to turn them into candleholders for your dinner table. Especially if the bottles are saved from special occasions, this adds a personal touch to your anniversary, birthday, or Valentine’s Day, and the wax drips give them a vintage, romantic look. You can also use these wax-dripped bottles as flower vases in the future, which adds a rustic, upcycled vibe to your table, or even re-use them as containers for homemade white or red wine vinegar.

Over the festive period, our eyes are often bigger than our stomachs. This year, rather than throwing away the bottles of wine or champagne we can’t quite finish, do your bit to reduce waste by getting the best out of your booze. From delicious dishes to helping out with the housework, you’ll be surprised how far your wine will stretch.