As a wine enthusiast, I rarely get what I want when the holidays roll around. Most of the time, my well-meaning friends and family will get me a couple of wines from Trader Joe’s, or yet another corkscrew. By the beginning of January, I usually have a cabinet full of mass-produced California Cabernet (or worse, Merlot). Every year leaves me with the same conundrum: What do I do with all of this mediocre holiday wine? To repurpose or regift wine quickly and efficiently, you need to figure out the worth of what you’ve received and how much you value your free time.
Regifting “Worthless” Bottles
Few things are more baffling for a serious collector than receiving a basic grocery store wine for Christmas. One Wine Berserkers forum member says his mother-in-law always buys him a bottle of Yellow Tail Merlot, while another member says his aunt gave him an entire case from Naked Wines this year. These cheap bottles, which many collectors call “plonk,” are the most difficult to deal with because they’re often not delicious enough to drink, yet they’re not valuable enough to resell. You have three choices if you get a bottle of plonk for the holidays:
To regift wine like this, you first need to make sure your giftee will enjoy it–don’t burden someone else with a wine they’re not interested in. It’s not impossible to find a grateful giftee; I personally know many people who wholeheartedly enjoy supermarket wines. If you know someone who would enthusiastically drink a wine like this, put a nice bow on it and give it to them alongside a higher-quality gift (like a gourmet snack or a gift certificate for a local wine shop). The only downside to regifting wine is that you are silently giving the wine your stamp of approval, meaning your recipient might assume that you enjoy that particular wine and that you’re recommending it to them.
Cook with It
If you’re not into regifting, cook it into a winter stew instead, or use it to braise meat or poach fish. A truly horrible wine won’t do a dish any favors, but the majority of mass-produced wines will work just fine. This way, you can also taste the wine first to see whether you enjoy it. If you do, go ahead and drink it, and if you don’t, you can freeze the wine into cubes and use them for future cooking projects.
Throw a Blind Taste Test
The best option for truly plonk wines is to save them for a casual blind tasting party with friends. Buy a few higher-quality bottles, cover all of the labels, and have your friends try to identify the plonk bottles based on taste. Not only is this a fun way to get rid of cheap, uninteresting wine, you can also teach your friends (and give yourself a refresher course) how to spot the difference between a good and a bad wine.
Regifting Bottles of Some Value
Our palates are as unique as our fingerprints–sometimes, we get quality bottles that are solid wines, but that we personally dislike. For instance, I’m not the biggest fan of Frascati, however, I know plenty of wine enthusiasts who can’t get enough of this Roman varietal. These are the easiest wines to repurpose because they have some market value and clout among their fans. To regift wine of value, start with your close group of friends and family. Can you think of someone who usually loves this wine varietal or this region? The only caveat is to make sure that your giftee isn’t closely associated with the person who originally gave you the wine. Social etiquette says that all regifting should be done in secret.
Regifting wine often requires less effort than selling the bottle, however, if you have the free time or you don’t know anyone who would want the wine, selling it is also a viable option. When you sell, you can essentially trade the bottle in for something you actually want. I recommend keeping age-worthy bottles in storage for a few years before reselling them, whereas young wines should be sold right away.
Getting What You Want in the Future
The best way to avoid having to repurpose or regift wine is to never receive a bad bottle in the first place. This isn’t impossible if you take the time to share your love of wine with the people closest to you. I frequently try new wines with my brother, and over the years, he’s learned what types of wine I like. This year, he gave me an amazing 97-point, 5-year-old red blend from Abruzzo; if I hadn’t shared my knowledge of wine with him, he never would have thought to give me that particular bottle.
In addition to sharing your passion for wine, you can drop hints throughout the year about which wines you love most. Talk about your favorite wine shops (or better yet, take your loved ones with you when you visit). Mention a wine subscription that you’ve always wanted, or a mailing list you wish you were on. This isn’t a foolproof method, but attentive friends and family members will eventually pick up on what you truly like.
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