Liquid Leftovers: 10 Tips For Preserving Your Thanksgiving Wine

By Gabe Saglie   |   November 26, 2019

If you do Thanksgiving right, it’s not just edible leftovers you’ll be enjoying the next day. The cavalcade of flavors on your table means you’ll be popping a lot of corks, too – a wide range of wines to match a wide range of foods. And while Tupperware and aluminum foil works well when it comes to saving turkey and cranberry sauce for Friday’s overstuffed sandwiches, keeping your wines alive requires a bit more planning. Here are 10 easy ways to help preserve a few splashes for the foraging that’ll no doubt last through the weekend.

1) Go Young: “Many older wines will lose their freshness, delicacy, and nuances overnight,” says Laura Booras, GM at Riverbench Vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley, “so it’s best to finish them the night you open them.” So if you’re choosing between which wine to finish Thanksgiving night and which one to keep for later, save the younger one for Friday’s lunch.

2) Go Big: Finish off lower-alcohol wines first; alcohol’s preservative qualities mean higher-alcohol wines have a better chance of surviving the night. Same goes for higher-tannins wines, like cabernets, malbecs and nebbiolos. Late harvest, fortified, and port wines are good overnight bets, too.

3) Decant, Then Drink: Decanted wines have a shorter shelf life. “The surface area has been more exposed, so it’s going to oxidize and age much more quickly,” Booras tells me. So finish the wines you decant first and put the cork (or screw the cap) back on the ones you didn’t.

4) Don’t go to Extremes: Temperature will have an even greater effect on wines that have been opened, so avoid sunlight through the window or the trunk of your car in the middle of the day. Avoiding temperature changes will do your wine good.

5) Take a Stand: Keep leftover wines standing up, rather than on their side. A bottle on its side will result in maximum wine exposure to oxygen, wine’s great nemesis.

6) Screw it: If you’re not good at re-corking a bottle of wine, buy screw-capped wines, instead. A well-sealed screwcap is a very effective way of preserving wine for 24 hours.

7) No Off Sides: If you’re saving your wine by sticking the cork back in, “Put in the same end that was touching the wine first,” says sommelier Jon McDaniel, a former Los Olivos wine steward who went on to take the Chicago dining scene by storm, and making Wine Enthusiast’s “40 Under 40 Tastemaker” list in 2017. “I have seen corks that didn’t taint the wine with TCA (a bacteria that will ‘cork’ the wine) initially.  But when you put in the other end of the cork first, you can come back the next day and have a corked or spoiled wine.  So even though the cork will expand a bit, try and put the wet end of the cork back in first.”

8) Blend It: A bottle that’s full is least likely to spoil, since you’re minimizing the wine’s contact with oxygen. So don’t be coy about filling a bottle or two with your wine leftovers and creating your own special Thanksgiving blend for the next day. You’re not a winemaker. You’re not trying to win an award. You’re just being prudent.

9) Chill Out: Stephanie Varner, who manages the tasting room at Rusack Vineyards in Ballard Canyon once gave me the most creative advice for giving your Thanksgiving leftover wine a new lease on life: “Make ice cubes!” The weekend’s sipping possibilities are endless.

10) Be Done With It: This is the only advice we heed at our house. Don’t want to deal with preserving leftovers? Don’t have any to begin with! Drink up. Drink responsibly. But drink up!

Happy Thanksgiving!


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