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Shelf life of various cooking wines

jocelyng's picture

Hi everyone,


A friend of mine e-mailed me asking about the shelf life of an opened bottled of Marsala.  I have some (along with Madeira) in my "liquor cabinet" that is definitely more than two years old.  Does it lose flavor over time?  Does it go bad? 


TIA.


Jocelyn

chiffonade's picture

After 2 years opened, I'd say it would be yucky.  I go through marsala pretty quickly so mine never gets off the counter into the fridge.  I'd say after 3 months opened in teh fridge, adios.  If you use it that slowly, get small bottles.

"Sandra Lee is the Culinary Anti-Christ and I am the Anti-Sandra Lee.  The precious moments you may take to measure a level cup of flour are NOT wasted time!"


Chiffonade

*You're a REAL person, eat REAL food."

Chiffonade

jocelyng's picture

Refrigerator...for cooking wines?  Uh oh.

chiffonade's picture

Let me elaborate.  I don't use anything labeled "Cooking" wine.  It is found on supermarket shelves and contains so much salt, it no longer qualifies as an alcoholic product or beverage; but a food product.  Any wine I use is drinkable. 


Back away from the...



"Sandra Lee is the Culinary Anti-Christ and I am the Anti-Sandra Lee.  The precious moments you may take to measure a level cup of flour are NOT wasted time!"


Chiffonade

*You're a REAL person, eat REAL food."

Chiffonade

jocelyng's picture

I don't use those either.  I was talking about Marsala and Madeira et al. that you buy in the liquor department at the supermarket or packaged goods store.  Same guidelines?


Thanks.


Jocelyn

chiffonade's picture

Same guidelines as for your drinking wines.  drunk.gif picture by chiffonade

"Sandra Lee is the Culinary Anti-Christ and I am the Anti-Sandra Lee.  The precious moments you may take to measure a level cup of flour are NOT wasted time!"


Chiffonade

*You're a REAL person, eat REAL food."

Chiffonade

Glenys's picture

The entire history of Marsala (Sicily), Madeira (Spain) and Port (Portugal) was that the English tried to ship wine and between the shipping and heat, they received expensive vinegar. Foritifying the wine with alcohol stablized the product and created lonqevity, at least until they started drinking it.

BonnieinHolland's picture

The only fortified wine that can stand open any length of time is Madeira.  That'll be good for 6 months.  All the rest (port or sherry or marsala), depending on what it is exactly, only maximum, 2 weeks.  After that, absolutely no good.  And even 2 weeks is pushing it for some fortified wines.  cheers, Bonnie

TracyK's picture

That has not been my experience at all. Not even remotely. I keep them, unrefrigerated, for months and have not noticed any off tastes.

CT poster in bad standing since 2000.

Risottogirl's picture

I agree, I keep mine in a cool spot and except for sherry, fino in particular, I have never noticed a problem. I always sniff and taste before I add.

Water is a great ingredient to cook with, it has such a neutral flavor - Bobby Flay

Water is a great ingredient to cook with, it has such a neutral flavor - Bobby Flay

PeterDurand's picture

You beat me to it. Same here.

 


Better life through Zoodles and poutine...

BonnieinHolland's picture

The flavors definitely do change over time for all fortified wines, excepting Madeira (which is already intensely oxidized so being open doesn't cause it do degrade like with the other fortified wines).  Perhaps it doesn't make such a difference for cooking; I haven't tried cooking a dish with a fortified wine that's been open for a while and set it beside one that's been cooked with a newly-opened bottle.  In any case, if I did a tasting with you of a sherry or port, for example that had been opened for a while and one that was freshly opened, you would taste the difference.  I've done blind tastings of ports (LBV, ruby, tawny, colheita, vintage, aged tawny), sherries (fino, manzanilla, amontillado,  oloroso) and Madeiras - opened the bottles, then did the tastings blind, with tasting notes, over a two-week period (my goal was to taste as much as possible until the bottles were finished).  The first tasting was inevitably the best, as all the various flavors and aromas presented themselves.  Then, progressively, the tasting notes got narrower and narrower - amontillados got down to just coffee notes, for example, rather than having a full range of nuts, caramel, etc.  That's the oxidation of these wines at work.  The only wine that did not degrade was the Madeira.  The quickest wines to oxidize are the Fino and Manzanilla sherries and the Vintage ports - those truly need to be drunk up within two days.  I think that if I sat down side-by-side with you and presented a freshly opened bottle against a two-week old bottle that you would be able to taste the difference too.  As said, this might not make a huge difference for cooking - it depends on one's fanaticism, I guess.  As far as storage, it's a good idea to always always store left-over wine, whether fortified or not, in the fridge as this will slow down the oxidation.  Then if the wine needs to be more toward room temp for serving, just take it out of the fridge a couple hours before serving.   Once again, Madeira is the exception.  cheers, Bonnie

Glenys's picture

It's not fanaticism if you're going to drink it but again that's really dependent on the product itself.  I'm not opening a 25 year old bottle of Port to cook, nor do I think that the oloroso I use in a chocolate cake would be an exciting drink, old or otherwise. 

BonnieinHolland's picture

Gosh, Glenys, there are some wonderful Olorosos -- Lustau makes a very good one that's dry called Don Nuno.  But, then, I am a huge fan of dry sherry.  cheers, Bonnie

gmunger's picture

I think some folks take the addage about never cooking with a wine you wouldn't drink a bit too seriously. It's certainly a good guideline, but my experience also tells me that wine for cooking can be perfectly acceptable even though it's a bit more oxidized than I would care to tolerate at the table.


Case in point, I opened a vintage port on my birthday that I ended up not really liking all that well. Needless to say, there was some left over. Three weeks later, I used it as the main component in a pan sauce for venison and it turned out spectacularly. (The match with the balsamic mushrooms and the antelope loin was amazing.) I'm quite sure that wine was toast, as far as drinking, but it was perfectly acceptable, even quite good, for cooking.


 


 As Napoleon is reputed to have said about champagne, “in victory you deserve it; in defeat you need it.”


 

 

We are truly what we eat, and too many people are fast, cheap and easy. Who owns your food owns you, and it is unwise to let that power rest in the hands of a very few wealthy corporations.
BonnieinHolland's picture

That was the one element we didn't really talk about yet...cooking only with wine you'd drink and how the aging bit enters into that.  And I do really agree with you.  One has to balance budget with what's available at any moment in the cupboard.  And a 3-week old port has good potential for at least cooking (hope it was lovely on your birthday!).  I think I was just reacting, in the beginning, to the idea of using a bottle that had been open for 2 years already....yeek.  By the way, I used to live in Spokane!  cheers, Bonnie

Glenys's picture

I agree that port of varying ages stores differently but I keep mid-price Marsala and port open for months at a time, without problem. I wouldn't keep an well-aged bottle of port, open it and keep it hanging around, unless I gas or vacuum sealed it. I've never understood why Madeira and not Marsala, when it's never presented as such when I use it.


Edited 2/14/2008 2:14 pm by Glenys

PeterDurand's picture

"..created lonqevity, at least until they started drinking it."

Good one.

 


Better life through Zoodles and poutine...
soupereasy's picture

I keep them in the liquor cupboard and have kept some for years with no apparent deterioration in flavour. For the most part these are fortified wines.

Heather's picture

I just got the weekly SF Chronicle cooking eletter and guess what?

QUESTION OF THE WEEK
How do I store an open bottle of Marsala wine and how long will it keep?

Like sherry or port, Marsala is a fortified wine, so it will keep indefinitely. It's best to store it in a cool, dark place or in the refrigerator. If you keep it longer than a year, taste it to see if the flavor has diminished.

jocelyng's picture

Too funny!  Thanks for that (and to everyone else who replied).


Jocelyn


 

gmunger's picture

I've also been told that tawny ports hold up for much longer after opening compared with ruby or vintage "character" ports. FWIW


I've also found that the better the quality, the shorter the duration that they last at my house <tongue planted firmly in cheek>.


 


 As Napoleon is reputed to have said about champagne, “in victory you deserve it; in defeat you need it.”


 

 

We are truly what we eat, and too many people are fast, cheap and easy. Who owns your food owns you, and it is unwise to let that power rest in the hands of a very few wealthy corporations.
Risottogirl's picture

I don't remember where I clipped this from...a wine column in a newspaper, I think. Chicago maybe?


"Many fortified wines have a much longer shelf life than still wines. After uncorking, store a fortified wine in a cold cellar or refrigerator. Sherry wines are the weakest of the group and will last less than six to eight weeks after opening. Ports and marsalas can be recorked and stored in a refrigerator for several more weeks. Madeiras can be stored at room temperature, on a kitchen counter, for months and will not lose flavor, even after a year."


I keep sherry in the fridge, and all the others - port, marsala, vermouth, and assorted liqueurs and such in the cold cellar (yay, I have one!!!) now, but  before, I kept them in the basement (where it probably wasn't really cold enough yearound),  because well, if I'd kept them all in the fridge, where would the FOOD go. LOL. Now I have two fridges (w/top freezers), one chest freezer and a cold cellar. WooHoo!


In any case, fortified wines are not likely to go "off" they just sort of fade away. The only one I have ever tasted, smelled and thrown out is sherry.



Water is a great ingredient to cook with, it has such a neutral flavor - Bobby Flay


Edited 2/14/2008 12:17 pm ET by Risottogirl

Water is a great ingredient to cook with, it has such a neutral flavor - Bobby Flay