Tag Archives: gift wine

What to do with all those gift wines?

Turn them all into wine spritzers and keep your party going!

Gift wines. There. I said it. A bottle quickly picked up at the market, thoughtfully bought, but random nevertheless.

Guests can’t help it. Buying a random bottle of wine for a house party is like bringing a bouquet of flowers not knowing the home décor or gifting a box of candy to someone who can’t eat sweets (I grieve for them, wherever they may be).

A random bottle of wine is just that—it’s random. It isn’t necessarily bad, and you’re not being elitist for liking only certain kinds of wine. But there it sits. Those bottles of Merlot and over-oaked Chardonnay, all sitting there in the back of your collection, gathering dust.

Now, if you’re a real elitist, you toss the bottles out unopened. And that’s a shame unless of course, the bottle is spoiled. But there is such a thing as letting such collections grow too big.

I have a friend who believed that when people said that wines grow better with age, he literally thought they meant any wine from any vineyard. We took a look at his “collection” one day before a party he was hosting.

Nearly all were gift wines from various dates. He did well to lay them down and store them on their side in a rack (to keep the wine in contact with the cork). A few were expired (yes, ordinary, everyday wine will expire) and had to be tossed out. Many were okay. A few years ago, his brother dropped off several bottles of Le Fade Vigna del Doge, a decent kind of everyday red wine from Dele Venezie, Italy. I recognized it as the type that sidewalk cafes serve for midday meals. The corks were okay, and the contents were still clear.

Most of this collection were not the types of wine I’d want to serve straight from the bottle at a party as I would with ones from a favorite vineyard.

But, there are things you can do with these random wines, even those over-sweet and barely drinkable cheap bottles, that can keep the conversations going at a party that’s already in full swing. It’s a little trick that makes them useful at just about any gathering, and it makes almost any wine reasonably tasty in a glass (despite themselves). What I’m talking about are wine spritzers.

No recipe needed.

We poured the wine into tumblers over ice (something you would NEVER do with a good bottle). We filled each glass to about ¾ full. Use a LOT of ice or one big rock of ice. Then we topped the glasses with a splash of sparkling water, but make sure you use an unflavored variety otherwise it will completely change the flavor and you might be really unhappy with the result. You can use seltzer or your favorite club soda depending on your preferences. By the way, do you know the difference between a seltzer, sparkling water, and a club soda? There are subtle distinctions that aficionados of bubbly water recognize. But, that’s for another post.

Finally, give each glass a big squeeze of fresh citrus. For a fancy touch, garnish with a slice, wedge, something of peeled citrus. And keep some Angostura bitters on hand for guests who want to kill any cloying sweetness.

Doesn’t that sound delicious? It is. Check out my Gift Wine video to see how easy it is up close.

Now for the strategy to this idea. Hold your wine spritzers for the second-half of your party. By this time, you’ve already served the special wines you planned for the party but you’re just not ready for everyone to leave. No worries! Your guests have warmed up to each other and are more focused on the conversation. The spritzer gives them something that’s light and easy to sip between fists of nuts and laughing.

And you can thank those random gift bottles of wine for the extra fun.