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I Need an Education on Shelf Life for Liqueurs and Wines

 
 
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 01:55 pm
I'm in the process of cleaning out BBB's liquor cabinet and need some help. I know nothing at all about alcoholic beverages other than I don't like the taste of any of them. BBB has a liquor and wine cabinet with both opened and unopened bottles, most of which have been in there for 15 to 20 years or more and stored at room temperature.

I need to know if any of them are still useable in cooking or for drinking and which should be tossed to be on the safe side.

There are several dozen bottles of wines, mostly reds/some whites and roses, laying on their sides in racks. They're all unopened, but some of them are leaking. I know that environmental temperature can affect quality of drinking wines, but don't know if they're still useable in cooking or should all be tossed. Should the ones that are leaking be automatically tossed due to air contamination?

She's also got a bunch of liqueurs, most have been opened but several are still unopened. What's their shelf life? Do they spoil? These include triple sec, amaretto, creme de mint, creme de caco, etc.

What about hard liquors such as bourbon, gin, vodka, brandy and whiskey? Some are unopened, others have been opened.

If your advice depends on the specific names of the stuff, I can list that for you.

Is there a way to tell if any of these are spoiled beyond use without having to taste them?
 
tsarstepan
 
  2  
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 02:10 pm
@Butrflynet,
Quote:
Unopened bottles are shelf-stable, aren't they?
Ethan: Yes. Unlike wine, which continues to mature after bottling, a spirit [hard liquor] stops aging after it's taken from its wood barrel and put in a glass bottle. An unopened bottle of spirits is stable - so long as it's properly sealed.

http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/does-liquor-ever-expire-straight-up-cocktails-and-spirits-105435

According to the page, opened spirits have their alcohol evaporate. Still drinkable but not as potent a drink.
tsarstepan
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 02:13 pm
@tsarstepan,
As I understand it, dump any open wine a day after it's open.
Butrflynet
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 07:07 pm
@tsarstepan,
Thanks for that link. That is very helpful for the liqueurs and hard liquors.

Most of the wine is unopened. I know some wines age very well but isn't that because they've been in ideal storage and temperature conditions?

What do I look for to know if it is spoiled beyond use? If there is a lot of residue in the bottle does that mean it has gone bad?
ossobuco
 
  2  
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 07:20 pm
@Butrflynet,
Not necessarily - or I don't think so, as there is something called leas (lees? I think leas), and that was popular to leave them in in some california wines.

I disagree with Tsar that wine opened and not finished in a day is to throw out.
Twenty years, probably. Has the unopened wine been exposed to high heat? Not that I know that that ruins it if for a short time for a non wine connoisseur.

Others on a2k know more than I do about wine. First of all, I've no nose to speak of. I think wine gone bad is tasteable by the tongue though.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 07:34 pm
@ossobuco,
I had a multiply humiliating episode in my wine past. Our friend Harvey went to a store in his neighborhood (a grand neighborhood) and bought a small bottle of Chateau Yquem for my birthday. That night husband and I and Harvey were going to another friend's house for dinner. I brought the wine and gave it to the friend. This was one of my all time most incredibly stupid moves. I'd never heard of the wine, which is on the priceless level of stuff, or my idea of priceless.
Harvey was probably completely dumbfounded by my stupidity and didn't want to ruin my birthday.

The friend didn't serve the wine with any of the dinner courses, which I'd gotten used to - one doesn't have to, it's a house gift.
Some time later she called and said the wine was foul.
Well, Harvey had bought from the "goniff", as he called him. I don't think I ever told him her take on it.

Question - would I have known it was foul?
0 Replies
 
tsarstepan
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 07:39 pm
@ossobuco,
I'm not an expert in wine by far and that suggestion is/was some kind if rule of thumb or misunderstanding of a rule of thumb. They do have special rubber corks to extend the life of an open bottle of wine as using them and their applicator pumps much of the air out of the opened bottle creating a quasivacuum.

As for unopened bottles, my understanding is mere basic level but many wines will get better with age then will digress and deteriorate into something undrinkable. They million dollar question is when do each if these wines reach their individual peak. Storage is a vital issue for keeping wine from going bad. Dry, moderate temperature, and out of the sun.

Hopefully a2k has an amateur sommelier that would give you an expert's knowledge. I'm over my head at this point.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 07:53 pm
@tsarstepan,
That's true - I remember whites go floppy pretty soon re years, thus some on the market are at an edge. But I'm balderdashing, over my head too.
0 Replies
 
Zarathustra
 
  4  
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 08:05 pm
@Butrflynet,
Any flavoredLiqueurs should be tossed after one year past opening date. The high sugar relatively low alcohol content is a good medium for bacteria. Only red wine (some types) get better as they age white wine and sparkling wines have no tannins an so cannot get better with age. So after a year or two you will probably want to get rid of any white wine even if unopened. Bad wine will either have no taste or will taste like diluted vinegar.

Hard liquor opened or un-opened will last virtually forever.

Now I understand why BBB only does cut and paste...too drunk to type :-)
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 08:14 pm
@Zarathustra,
Oops, I thumbed you up and then you teased BBB.
(but I know you're kidding)
0 Replies
 
Butrflynet
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 08:51 pm
@Zarathustra,
What about the flavored liqueurs that haven't been opened but are in the age range of 15 to 20 years?

I guess it will be a big wine and liqueur dumping party at our house over the next few weeks.

As far as temps go for the wine, it has gone through warm summers of Albany and Alameda, California, and Albuquerque, New Mexico when the interior temps get as high as 85 degrees before we turn the air conditioning on. They're stored in an enclosed wooden cabinet.

As I go through the wines, I'll make a list of the reds and post them for more specific advice before I toss them. I do know that some of the unopened bottles with the red wines have been leaking so I'm going to assume they should be tossed once I identify which ones are doing so.

I think I'll try making some homemade vanilla extracts with the vodka and some vanilla beans.

If some of the wines have a vinegar smell to them, can they be boiled down to something resembling a balsamic vinegar?
Zarathustra
 
  2  
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 09:03 pm
@Butrflynet,
In theory if no air got to the flavored liquers they are ok but I wouldn' take any chances with anything that old.

Anything leaking is toast!

You can safely us the vodka or other hard stuff for anything like that, it will be fine.

I am not sure about the making your own vinegar. Starting with questionable ingredients is not a good plan, in my opinion. Also you would NOT want to boil it as the heat would not be good from a taste perspective. If you want to try it I would suggest pasturization instead. Lower temperatures for longer periods of time. That should ensure flavor sticks around. That would be about 160F but I am not sure of the time frame off the top of my head -- I think it is > 30 minutes.












Butrflynet
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 09:10 pm
@Zarathustra,
Okay, I'll just try to repurpose the hard liquors and dump everything else.

Thanks for your expertise.
roger
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 09:55 pm
@Butrflynet,
Now just hold on a minute, there. We could have a quiet little wine disposal party sometime in the future.
Butrflynet
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 10:14 pm
@roger,
We can have our own version of India's Holi festival and spray colorful spoiled wines at each other rather than the colorful powdered paints.

Better yet, we can ship the spoiled wines and liqueurs to UC Davis and let the students load up their super soakers to spray the campus police with it.
roger
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2011 11:00 pm
@Butrflynet,
Or just let it turn to vinegar, add some olive oil and call it a vinegarette dressing.
0 Replies
 
BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  2  
Reply Wed 23 Nov, 2011 11:36 am
@Zarathustra,
Zarathustra wrote: Now I understand why BBB only does cut and paste...too drunk to type :-)

In case you don't know, the hand trembling I've developed in my old age makes it difficult to type and it's almost impossible to write. So I try to continue to participate in A2K by posting news articles that might be interesting for the members. I'm not too drunk to type!

BBB
tsarstepan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Nov, 2011 11:44 am
@BumbleBeeBoogie,
I stand by your wholesale article bombing BBB. Helps me keep informed of news items I usually wouldn't stumble upon.
(((Thankful for your time spent here at a2k hug)))
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Nov, 2011 10:02 pm
@Zarathustra,
Vinegar as such needs a "mother", far as I know (but I'm not positive). Sort of like a starter with bread.

Harvey-the-connoisseur did use what was left in tired bottles in his rather great cooking... but he cooked a lot, so they got used.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Nov, 2011 10:04 pm
@roger,
Yeh, hold on a minute.

Is there any Heitz Cabernet in the lot? List the names of the reds and we can research..
 

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