Ask Unclutterer: Too much wine!

Reader Jules submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

I had a party and I bought a lot of wine for it–four cases–much more than I ended up needing. As guests arrived, they came bearing bottles of wine as hostess gifts–30 more bottles. Now I have more wine than I can store or possibly drink in a reasonable amount of time. I know a bit about wine, but a lot of the bottles I received as gifts aren’t ones I’ve tried before. How do I decide what to keep and what to get rid of? Also, what do I do with the bottles I don’t want to keep? I don’t want them sitting around my house cluttering up the kitchen, but I don’t want to waste them by throwing them away. I know it’s illegal for me to sell them. What should I do–oh gurus of simple living–with more than 60 bottles of wine?

Jules, you have yourself in an interesting predicament. Let me begin by answering your question about which bottles to keep and which bottles to get out of your home. Log onto The Wine Buyer or a similar site and learn about the bottles of wine your friends gifted to you. (Your friends are good friends, by the way. I recommend keeping your friends.) Check out the ratings and the descriptions of the flavor for each bottle of wine. If what you learn about a wine interests you, put the bottle in your “keep” pile. If it doesn’t interest you, put it in a “purge” pile. I also recommend that as you’re reading about the wine that you write some notes for yourself about the bottles. These notes will be helpful in the weeks and months to come when you’re deciding what bottle of wine to pair with a meal or event.

The bottles of wine that you bought for the party that you didn’t end up serving can most likely be returned to the store where you purchased them. Most stores will accept returns on any unopened reds and any unopened and unchilled whites (if you chilled it, it’s yours). Just be sure to take your receipt with you when you head back to the store.

The remaining wines that made it into your “purge” pile have many exciting opportunities for their future. You can have another party, serve the extra wine, and give each guest a parting wine bottle gift. (Name the party “Jules’ Wine Blowout!” and write things like “All wine must go!” on the invitations. Don’t forget to put “no gifts, please, especially wine” on the invite, too.)

You could encourage another friend to have a party and donate all of your wine to him/her for the celebration. You can head to a local harbor and start christening ships (this is a joke, don’t do this, people will get mad). You could go door-to-door in your neighborhood and give wine to your neighbors as “thank you” gifts for putting up with the noise from your party.

Dave, a knowledgeable gent who works at my local Total Wine, gave me a great suggestion for your “wounded soldiers” (those partially consumed bottles that are in the bar at the end of the party). Pour the remaining wine into ice cube trays, freeze, then pop the wine cubes out and store in ziptop plastic bags in your freezer. The next time a recipe calls for wine, drop in a frozen wine cube instead of opening a new bottle.

Our readers may have more suggestions for what to do with the excess wine, so be sure to check the comments for more ideas. I’m sure that this is a predicament that non-drinkers run into from time-to-time. Not being able to sell the wine bottles you received as hostess gifts really does make things more difficult. Thank you, Jules, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.

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35 Comments for “Ask Unclutterer: Too much wine!”

  1. posted by Ginger on

    We don’t drink much wine. We tend to use whatever wine we get as guest gifts or have as excess from parties to cook with (and, often, drink what’s left-generally a glass or two after making spaghetti sauce–from the bottle we cooked with). If it’s nice enough to drink, it will enhance whatever recipes you may make with it, too.

  2. posted by Kendra on

    It could be donated to a charity auction, or maybe donated to a local non-profit that has an upcoming event.

  3. posted by SC on

    I find this weird, why wouldn’t you be able to sell the wine? Not the ones you received as gifts, but the ones you bought yourself and where left over. What if a friend can use them and pays you what you paid for them in the store? You’re not making any money on it.

  4. posted by smj on

    Or just have another party – make that one a wine tasting party and specifically say in the invitation that guests should not bring wine.

  5. posted by Lori Paximadis on

    Kendra beat me to it: donate to a charity auction or raffle.

    If you have a favorite art gallery, ask if they want a few (or a dozen) bottles for their next opening.

    Gifts for all occasions over the next year.

    Host a small wine tasting every other week through the summer (with strict instructions to NOT bring more wine).

    Erin had great advice about deciding what to keep and what to move along by checking out the ratings and character of each online. And I love the tip about freezing the cubes!

  6. posted by Molly on

    Oh I like the wine tasting party – with prizes to those who can identify the wines! (possibly more wine?)

  7. posted by AddiesDad on

    I must admit, this seems like a head-scratcher problem, because to me it’s not a “problemn” per se. 1) almost any wine will keep for a very long time stored in the back of a closet or in the basement (cool, somewhat dry, but mostly a place that doesn’t suffer sharp/wide changes in temperature), so even if you don’t think you’ll drink it in a week or two, surely you might drink it between now and Christmas. Even chilled wine taken out of the fridge and put in one the afore mentioned places won’t turn if let to warm gradually. 2) I like the follow=up party idea, but wine, even a modest bottle, makes a fab hostess/house warming gift, especially when presented in a nice/interesting bag. 3) Send it to me, my wife and I drink (unhealthy I’m sure) quantities of wine. I’ll even pay for shipping! (Kidding, sort of).

    In the future, I believe eVite has a function that helps calculate the # of drinks you need for a party, or ask your local wine store for recommendations on quantities. I almost always undercount to compensate for people who will bring wine and for those who are driving.

  8. posted by Carol on

    Freecyle them maybe? You’d probably have to id the people but it might work. I like the charity option better though.

    You can also try to give them to friends/family/co-workers. I drink wine occaisonally and love to cook with wine. If someone I knew asked me if I’d like a bottle or two I accept in a heartbeat. Just don’t mention they’re leftovers from a party to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings.

  9. posted by Erin Doland on

    @SC — You can’t sell wine in any state in the US without a liquor license. Seems like a lot of hoops just to unload 20 or 30 bottles of wine.

  10. posted by Kalani on

    Individually have each of your housewarming guests over again. Rant about how much you like the wine they gave you, or are looking forward to drinking it. Then confide in them that Other People gave you too much and how thoughtful it was, but you’d really like to share, and offer to let them pick one! Do this with all 30 guests, and bingo, you’re out of wine!

  11. posted by Louise on

    It is almost certain that the people who brought wine to your party are themselves wine drinkers. Most folks will choose a wine they like to bring.

    If you save the bottles and give them as birthday or holiday gifts to all those same friends, they won’t know or care that it is the same bottle and will enjoy the present. The longest you’d have to save the wine is until December, and much of your gift-giving budget will already be taken care of.

  12. posted by Michele on

    I’m with the people who aren’t exactly sure what the “problem” is here, LOL! I love the ideas I’ve seen so far.

    Do you know any couples getting married this year? Perhaps they’d accept a few dozen bottles of wine for the reception as a wedding gift. It could save them a big chunk of change, and I think it would be a better gift than a kitchen unitasker gadget, anyway!

  13. posted by Sheena on

    Perhaps the problem is a lack of space. I would have no where to store 20 bottles of wine at home.

    I would give them away as gifts. Donate them. Have another party. Bring them to work. Give them to the neighbors. Lots of people could use a drink!

  14. posted by Another Deb on

    Perhaps there is a local culinary school or vocational program at a community college which could use the donation. I know that the adult education courses at my local community college has a wine-tasting class. Of course, they hold the tastings at a local establishment, but it might be nice to contact the instructors for their suggestions.

  15. posted by Celeste on

    Regift, entertain more frequently, or make wine the defacto hostess gift you take anywhere until it’s used up.

    I guess I don’t understand the immediacy of the problem. I knew you could return unopened bottles to the seller, but I did NOT know about the chilling of whites as invalidation of that. Makes sense, though. I think the donation aspect is actually brilliant, since lots of places take donations for fundraisers.

  16. posted by Chris on

    Careful, Erin… every state is different with regard to returns of alcoholic beverages. Here in New York, returns are not permitted unless “the merchandise is defective in quality”. Ref:

  17. posted by Rosie on

    If I were in this predicament, I would donate the ones I didn’t want to keep to my college alumnae association. They are always hosting cocktail parties and it would help defray costs for them.

  18. posted by Winbender on

    You can send them all to me! My liver and I provide a a nice home for any extra libations you may have lying around the house. This includes, but is not limited to, beer, wine, whiskey, scotch, tequila, vodka, etc. No gin. I hate gin.

  19. posted by Rue on

    The problem is stated in her email – she doesn’t have enough room to store it! That’s definitely a lot of wine.

    I think using several of these suggestions is great. Have a couple of wine-tasting parties, ask your friends if they want some, etc. Then anything you have left over (that you don’t want yourself or want to save for future parties or regifting), call around and see if you can donate it to someone.

  20. posted by Megan on

    Whenever I have leftover booze from a party or something, I find that my younger brother and his roommate are always up for “re-homing” any extras that I don’t want.

    Just find your neighborhood broke college student!

  21. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Chris — That is why it says “Most” in the article. I think there are three states that don’t let you return alcohol.

  22. posted by Michelle J. on

    We had about 6 cases of wine left over from our wedding. I just stacked them in the living room! A few bottles to drink every week was easy when I had to look at those boxes every day. When people would come over and comment about the crazy amount of wine we had, I would offer some bottles for them to take home. You wouldn’t believe how fast it went. I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you. Free alcohol has a way of disappearing.

  23. posted by Kathy on

    The first thing I’d do is call friends and family and ask them if they’d like a bottle or three.
    You’ll have it cleared out in a week or two.

  24. posted by Brian on

    If i was nearby id take some off your hands!

  25. posted by erin on

    Thank you for the idea of what to do with the leftover wine in a bottle! Not that we have much but I could never figure out what to do with the wine that didn’t taste great anymore but most certainly wasn’t bad. Freezing it and using it in recipes is a great idea. I will just have to keep the kids from thinking they are popcicles!

  26. posted by Ann Marie on

    If it’s summertime (as in right now), you can make some sangria with extra red wine. A couple of citrus fruits and some ginger ale will make you a really refreshing summer drink. Bonus – if you’re worried about your friends having hurt feelings when they recognize their wine as a re-gift, they’ll never recognize it in sangria form (plus this effectively hides less than stellar wine), so you can feel free to invite them over to drink it!

  27. posted by JC on

    Could you give bottles of red wine to a church?

  28. posted by Sharon Rowe on

    I like the icecube suggestion!

  29. posted by Beth on

    Problem – I think not! I usually have about 40-60 bottle in my wine rack and another 10-15 in the wine fridge.

    We have alot of BYOB restaurants in my area so I always have bottles to grab to go out to eat with friends. In fact, we almost exclusively eat at BYOB’s – you would be amazed the amount of money you save. Many BYOB’s now provide wine lockers for customers so you can store a couple bottles if you have a spur of the moment inclination to dine out.

    I love the wine tasting party too. It is a great way to get together with friends.

  30. posted by Enjoying Wine and Cooking on

    On the ones that you keep try to narrow them down by category in what you enjoy. Do you prefer red or white wine? What varietal do you like most? Or how about what pairs well with food you enjoy often. For me I would keep mostly red wines and lean towards Cabernet Sauvignon. For the ones you don’t want to keep try to give them to friends or a family member who likes wine. They may even take all them off your hands for you. I certainly would. If you have function to attend on the 4th of July perhaps the host would appreciate you bringing a few bottles.

  31. posted by OogieM on

    I can’t imagine this as a real problem. Use the good wine in cooking, drink a glass with dinner every night, have a couple small parties. I mean from the looks of it you have something like 5-6 cases of wine max. We try to keep 3-4 cases in the house on a regular basis for 2 people. Surely you can consume 5 cases before the wine gets too old, depending on the type you’ve got several years!

  32. posted by Teresa on

    Oh my gosh, I wish I had that problem.

  33. posted by Michelle on

    I’m a bit of an oenophile, and one of my best parties ever came when I was facing a substantial move and had more than 8 cases of wine stored up. For my going-away party I invited a bunch of friends over and corked the finest bottles, many of which I’d brought back with me from international travel.

    It felt so wonderful to share all those phenomenal wines with people who’d meant so much to me and who I was so sad to be leaving. Plus, I substantially reduced the amount of wine that I needed to move.

    Friends had a blast, too, and still refer to it as my “liquidation party.” Of course now that I know what it feels like, I try to open those special bottles with friends more often.

  34. posted by Mountain Humanist on

    There is a charity called Wine to Water that gives wine parties and uses the proceeds to dig wells in developing nations. Perhaps they would accept the wine as a donation.

    Web link:

  35. posted by Charles on

    This is a non-issue. How could it be difficult to give away wine? Just e-mail your friends or bring it to work, and it will be gone in a matter of days. Who says no to free wine?

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