Log In / Join Now

Ask Dr. Vinny

Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Dear Dr. Vinny,

I have heard that wine will never be perishable even when it has been open for a long time. Even when it is no longer drinkable, it can be used as vinegar in cooking—is that true?

—David W., Shanghai, China

Dear David,

It’s true that if you open a bottle of wine and just let it sit there, it’ll never go bad in the same way milk would go bad, but it’ll taste bad. An open wine will become oxidized: the fruit flavors will fade, the color will turn brown, and it’ll take on nutty notes. Eventually it might turn into vinegar, though only under specific circumstances (and in my experience, with the help of a vinegar “mother”).

But I discourage you from cooking with it. Though it may (or may not) turn into vinegar, old and oxidized wine is not the same thing as vinegar. You’d be better off substituting another acid—say, lemon juice. And if a recipe calls for using actual wine, the alcohol evaporates during the cooking process, and all that’s left is the essence of the wine’s flavors. For that reason, I suggesting using fruity wines to cook with, not old and no-longer-fruity wines.

I’ll confess that sometimes, when I want to deglaze a pan while I’m cooking, I’ll find a leftover bottle in the fridge, and I might use a splash or two. After all, one of the reasons to use wine in cooking is because the alcohol helps dissolve some flavor compounds that water alone cannot. But I never do that with a wine that’s more than a few days old.

—Dr. Vinny

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.