What To Do With That Leftover Wine

When you are drinking wine in a restaurant and you don’t finish the bottle, what do you do with it? I’m a wine conservationist, but there is a limit to the amount of wine I can drink in one sitting and still be coherent. And I detest hangovers. I’m wise enough to avoid them, so sometimes there is wine in the bottle left at the table. What can you do?

Technically you could take it home. Yes, there is what is known as the “brown bag law.” This allows a consumer to take an unfinished bottle of wine home from a restaurant. It must be sealed and stowed in the trunk of the vehicle for the transport to your destination. (Full disclosure: I am not an attorney and am not licensed to give any legal advice.) You could put it in your refrigerator and drink it the next day, or even when you get home, if you so choose. I should remind you, however, that wine doesn’t often taste as good once they are open and left out for too long a period. The wine loses fruit and vibrancy once it is exposed to oxygen. It tastes even worse if you forget to bring it into the house and leave it in the trunk.


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2009 Schlumberger Pinot Gris. Photos from Robert Viernes

On the other hand, why take the risk of getting pulled over by a policeman with an opened container of alcohol in your vehicle? Or set yourself up for disappointment as you revisit the wine you had last night the following day, only to taste something that is just a pale shadow of what you tasted previously. I recommend that you leave the bottle right on the table.

I know firsthand from years working in restaurants that servers and staff greatly appreciate you sharing the wine with them, even if it is left over. Most restaurant servers love food and wine, which is why they are in the business. And quite often it is the only chance that many of us get the opportunity to taste select wines.

Yes, one may think that working in the restaurant, we get to try all of the different wines on the wine list. That may be true for most of the less expensive bottles. But the truth is that there are plenty of wines that we don’t get the opportunity to taste, especially those rarefied bottles in the high end.

Another recommendation is to give the wine to the chef or manager of the restaurant, especially if it is a restaurant that you enjoy and frequent often. Nothing says thank you like a glass of great wine, and it can also help you to “grease the wheels” when you’re asking for a last-minute reservation for your anniversary or Mother’s Day. I probably don’t have to tell you how many restaurateurs wind down their nights with a glass of fine wine.

The one thing you should not do with the wine you leave at the restaurant is to treat it as part of the tip. It is indeed a nice gesture, but no one can pay their bills with a leftover wine.


2009 Schlumberger Pinot Gris ($19) When I tasted this wine, it was like a fresh breath of damson, flowers, sweet yellow plums and citrus. It has a quaffable nature with the all important refresh-ability. Light on its feet but with plenty of flavor.

2009 Chateau de Lascaux Languedoc Rouge ($15) A Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre blend that offers up tons of lively red and black fruit along with some savory notes of herbs and dare I say violets. It is wonderfully gulpable and may be my “red wine value of the year” so far.