Leftover table wine can be refrigerated and used for cooking if held for only one or two weeks. If you have at least a half a bottle of wine left over, pour it off into a clean half bottle, cork it, and store it in the refrigerator, without air space at the top, the rebottled wine will keep for a least one month.
Because wide temperature swings will ruin a wine faster than you can pop a cork, it is best to store any wine that you do not intend to drink within a week or two in a temperature-controlled environment. Here are a few facts about wine storage:
* Wine should be kept free from wide temperature swings.
* Wine should not be exposed to extreme heat.
* Wine should always be stored on it's side. When wine stands upright for a long time, there is no contact between the wine and the cork, significantly increasing the likelihood of the cork drying out and cracking, allowing air to get into the wine. Oxidized wine is compromised at best and usually undrinkable.
*The ideal temperature for wine is between 55 degrees and 65 degees F. Some may quibble with higher temperature in this range, but some wine purveyors believe a slightly higher temperature is a better way to coax a wine along. If wine is kept too cool, they say, it will stay stagnant, or progress at a much slower rate. This matter is surely up for debate, but the point is that wine definitely likes relatively cool, constant temperatures.
* Do not store wine in the refrigerator for more than about a week. Just as extreme heat is a wine's enemy, so too is extreme cold. Unless your refrigerator is less than 50 degrees F. you will compromise the flavors in the wine. Also, when wine is in the refrigerator, it is subject to constant vibration. That type of movement is not good for wine.
* Place wine in the refrigerator about one hour before serving and sparkling wine three to for hours before serving. The thickness of the bottles used for sparkling wine is thicker and makes a longer cooling time.
* To chill a bottle quickly, fill a container, such as an ice bucket or pitcher, with ice and water and immerse the bottle for ten to fifteen minutes. Do not place wine in the freezer.
So how do you achieve optimum storage conditions? First, many people are able to create makeshift cellars by squaring off a small area of the basement and installing shelves or ready made wine racks. This will work fine, as long as the area retains a constant temperature that is below 65degreeF. does not get sunlight, and is not next to your water heater, air conditioner, or the like.
If you do not have the luxury of space, there are many small wine refrigerators on the market these days. These are helpful because they control the temperature for you. Or you may simply buy only as much wine as you have appropriate space to store it in.
All wines contain at least some small amount of sulfites. They are a natural result of the same fermentation process that turns grape juice into alcohol. Even wines that have not had any sulfites added during the winemaking process contain some amount of sulfites. Sulfur dioxide(SO2) is used by winemakers to keep freshly pressed must from spoiling. It keeps down the activities of native yeast and bacteria and preserves the freshness of the wine.
When cooking wine contains sulfites, you do not concentrate them as you would flavor, but rather they evaporate like alcohol. The sulfite goes through a conversion in the liquid of the wine to produce sulfur dioxide. This is actually the compound that prevents the oxidation. It also is a gas, and when subject to heat, it dissipates into the air. All that remains is some salts, but they are so minute in quantity that they have no affect on flavor.
Wine has three main uses in the kitchen - as a marinade ingredient, as a cooking liquid, and as a flavoring in a finished dish. The function of wine in cooking is to intensify, enhance and accent the flavor and aroma of food - not to mask the flavor of what you are cooking but to fortify it. As with any seasoning used in cooking, care should be taken in the amount of wine used - too little is inconsequential and too much will be overpowering. Neither extreme is desirable. A small quantity of wine will enhance the flavor or the dish.
The alcohol in the wine evaporates while the food is cooking, and only the flavor remains. Boiling down wine concentrates the flavor, including acidity and sweetness. Be careful not to use too much wine as the flavor could overpower your dish.
For best results, wine should not be added to a dish just before serving. The wine should simmer with the food, or sauce, to enhance the flavor of the dish. If added late in the preparation, it could impart a harsh quality. It should simmer with the food or in the sauce while it is being cooked; as the wine cooks, it reduces and becomes an extract which flavors. Wine added too late in the preparation will give a harsh quality to the dish. A wine needs time to impart its flavor in your dish. Wait 10 minutes or more to taste before added more wine.
1/2 to 3/4 cup raw wine= 2 Tablespoons of wine reduction.
For ultimate flavor, wine should be reduced slowly over low heat. This method takes more time and effort, but will achieve a superior sauce because the flavor compounds present in the wine are better preserved.