Have a variety of bottles given to me over the holidays (mainly from gift baskets) that are mainly plonk (e.g. Sangiovese from California, or Merlot from California, Reisling, etc.). What do you do with bottles of wine that you won’t drink and can’t re-gift since a wino as myself wouldn’t give these as gifts.

Swimming in Plonk

Try the with an open mind? Then if you don’t like them, use them for cooking.


Some people freeze such wine in ice-cube trays to make for very easy use of wine in cooking

Have a party, and develop either new or fewer friends.


Many small scale charities have annual gala events with a “Wall of Wine”. Bottles are all in paper bags and attendees can donate $20 and pull a bottle. We have one group we donate to annually.

I have a number of old Zins/etc that are pretty much dead & gone. So I put them in my “Streets of SantaFe” box.
When I get a full case, I seal it up w/ tape and set it out in a parking lot of WholeFoods or in the alley next to
my FencingClub. Can you imaging the excitement of some of the town winos when they discover this whole
box of free wine?? Until they discover that they need a corkscrew, anyway. Don’t know what they do then, though.

I serve it when guests come over who are not into wine.
If they are bad when opened I just pour them out.

Guess I’m not a snob

Respectfully I offer that this is misguided advice. If you wouldn’t want to drink the plonk, you don’t want to taste its flavors in your food either.

If a poorly made wine is unbalanced to your palate, it’s going to harm the balance of your dish too in my experience.

Just my two cents …


Agreed Matthew. The level of wine I use for cooking depends on what I’m trying to accomplish. If it’s something simple and/or just for me, then I’m fine cooking with a mediocre wine. If it’s a fancier dish and/or I’m cooking for others, I’ll use a better wine.

But if it’s truly plonk? Then there’s no reason at all to cook with it it; it goes down the drain.

I’m not one of those people who insists you need to do a blind tasting before you can say you don’t like a wine. But if you’re telling me you can tell the difference between good wine and supermarket plonk in a coq au vin, I call BS, especially if your objection is rooted in “balance.” You think the balance scale is going to be unaltered after a couple hours of simmering with all the other ingredients you threw in the pot? Might want to do a blind tasting to verify. Really.


“Balance” might not have captured my sentiment. Let me put it this way:

I have cooked enough meals to know that the quality of the dish is directly related to the quality of the ingredients you put into it. Real vanilla bean vs. artificial, pancetta vs. Oscar Meyer bacon, etc

You are free to cook your coq au vin with plonk but my dish cooked with a good Bourgogne will taste better than yours … assuming all ingredients are the same.

Do I think if you use plonk for your coq au vin that it will be inedible? No.

Do I think it will be diminished? Yes.

As with making fine wine, nuance and small details can be detected and teased out in a well made meal.

Disagree. The qualities that make for a good cooking wine and the qualities that make for a good drinking wine are not the same. Your coq au vin might be better than mine (it almost certainly will be - I suck at slow cooking), but it ain’t gonna be on account of the wine.

Or, put another way, absolutely none of the qualities that make Chambertin better than Bourgogne rouge are going to survive four hours in a stew on a stovetop.

Keith … I think we are at sixes and sevens. We may just have to agree to disagree on this one.:slight_smile:

I’m not suggesting that I can taste the difference between a Chambertin or a village Santenay in a cooked meal.

But I am saying that if you use crappy supermarket wine in your coq au vin – say Woodbridge California Cabernet – that it won’t taste as good as a dish made with a better wine.

There are plenty of $15 bottles that you can cook with and even have a glass of while you are slicing and dicing …

We have a dear friend who could not care less what wine we bring to her numerous parties, just that we bring wine. This is where I “use” the gift wines I don’t want to drink at home. [cheers.gif]

I remember reading that Mario Batali made his acclaimed Brasato di Barolo dish at Babbo using cheap California merlot. I think Keith has it right on this point.

Of course, do what you want, it’s your money and your food, but I know how I’d bet in the blind tasting if Matthew had to ID between a dish prepared with California cheap merlot, $30 Bourgogne, and $70 Premier Cru.

To the original post, I’ve donated mixed boxes of everyday and good wine (tabbed with little dot stickers on the capsule to distinguish - I’m a wine geek after all) to the priests at my parish at times.

A few times, I’ve also anonymously put boxes of gift wine I didn’t want in the office kitchen with a “help yourself” sign. I don’t want them, but I hate the idea of them going to waste given that many people would be happy to have them.

Keith is most definitely right on this one. Battali isn’t one to waste money. For cooking, a nice fruity with a bit of acidity is great. Tannins and wood and subtlety and maturity don’t help. They’re all lost. There’s a lot of coq au vin made with Carlo Rossi in NYC restaurants.

As to the OP - it depends on the wine. If it’s really badly made, depending on the problem you might want to toss it or use it in cooking or a marinade. Or make vinegar with it. If it’s really bad, dump it. But a lot of wine that isn’t very good to drink is perfectly fine for cooking. And if the problem is brett, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Nor is TCA sometimes. Wood and acetone OTOH don’t help most dishes I can think of.

And when I moved from Brooklyn I had a lot of plonk wine that people wanted me to import and work with. Much of it was oxidized or otherwise undrinkable. So I put it in a case like Tom describes and I put that out in front of a restaurant. A few days later I had some books and other things out on the stoop for people to take. This guy stopped by to collect some books and we got to talking and he told me about a miraculous find he came across a couple days earlier. As he put it, the restaurant owner had put out some “exquisite wines”.

I felt like the real Santa.

Well, Drew…if I’m leaving the box out on a grade school playground, I’m pretty sure all the gradeschoolers have, at least,
a waiter’s corkscrew, if not a Corovin!! [snort.gif]

I don’t leave the boxes anywhere that any kids are likely to come upon them.