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What Would YOU Do With 42 Cases of Sketchy Wine?

Consider this the first Vinography Reader Challenge. I happen to have a very good friend who works for a non-profit. A few months ago, they were contacted by a winery (who shall remain nameless) who offered to give them about 50 cases of wine that was, from the winery's perspective, unsellable. The wine was a mix of older vintages, returns from distributors, and unsold excess. The winery had only a few stipulations -- that the wine could not just be resold and that the non-profit do what it could to minimize the brand exposure (understandably if the wine was not at its best, the winery didn't want their name being trumpeted about while people drank not-so-good stuff).

The first thing the non-profit did was to pour some at a few events that it held. They went through 8 cases that way. But it turns out that the wine wasn't so great. Or more specifically, there was an awful lot of variability to the wine. Some of the stuff was drinkable -- on sort of a Two Buck Chuck level -- while some of it was just downright bad.

So they're left with roughly 42 cases of this stuff and we were sitting around the other day musing about what might be done with it.

So here's where you come in: give me ideas about what you could do with 42 cases of mostly red wine (Merlot and Cabernet) that do not involve simply throwing away the wine and recycling the bottles for cash, and that do not violate the agreement that the non-profit has with the winery.

The idea here is to see if we can come up with something interesting, or constructive, or even profitable. I will offer up all suggested solutions to the non-profit and if they choose to follow one, I'll let you know what the results are.

Thanks for your help!

Comments (28)

Lenn wrote:
06.08.06 at 4:39 AM

Give it back? ;)

Teasing...I'm sure Derrick would make vinegar from it, but that's probably not too useful for the non-prof.

They should hand it out to their employees, who are probably underpaid and under-appreciated. A little bonus...even if the wine is uneven.

Ryan Opaz wrote:
06.08.06 at 6:57 AM

Definatley make vinegar! I loved making my own and the quality, was always better than the crap wine that I put into it. I used to have a demi-john in my pantry that I put old bottles in and decanted off the fresh vinegar when I needed. Why not a fancy label of the non-profits logo, with some kind of theme? Not knowing the company, it's hard to come up with the theme, but I'm sure their could be a fun name out there to use that would benefit them.

06.08.06 at 7:28 AM

Lenn guessed my answer. They could talk to the folks at Oak Barrel about getting enough mother to change it.

Selling it might be an issue. Often these things need to be done in approved settings, and they'd need to pasteurize, etc. I don't know the laws because I don't have to, but again they could probably chat with the Oak Barrel folks. To get around the "approved setup" problem, they could probably find some sympathetic restaurant/catering facility.

brett wrote:
06.08.06 at 7:54 AM

Well the logical answer is to continue with what they've done--serve it at events. The key is to have the person who's opening each bottle have enough knowledge to be able to smell, sip, and spit a taste from each opened bottle and determine whether it should be served or just dumped. That way the guests are not vomiting.

The fun thing is to have a demolition derby where a bunch of people pay a few bucks to throw say 6 bottles and watch them break, and then some audience votes on the most beautiful shattering. It's similar to what we do at the store I work at when stuff becomes unsellable (no money involved, but we like to applaud the artistic shatterings).

Alder wrote:
06.08.06 at 8:11 AM

Vinegar is definitely an option, although what I want to know is whether crappy wine can make decent vinegar.

As far as continuing to serve the wine, there are more misses than hits, so they've decided that they want to serve something a little more tasty to people who they are courting for $$.

jr wrote:
06.08.06 at 8:21 AM

Make huge batches of sangria with it & incorporate sangria into a themed party or event!

John wrote:
06.08.06 at 8:37 AM


Have a volunteer party, open each bottle, taste for basic OK-ness, and gently pour into the blending tank. Then rebottle with some silly-ass non-profit label which I will design for you if no one else will.

So, ideally you need a local winery like crushpad to donate their premises for an evening, get some nibblies donated, and get to work.

The stuff will need to be drunk soon, but how can that possibly be a problem?

I bet this is the stuff Michel-Schlumberger was trying to flog on winebusiness.com a month or two back.

John wrote:
06.08.06 at 8:41 AM

...and if they don't do that, can you sneak me a case or two to make brandy^h^h^h^h^h^h environmentally friendly vehicle fuel.

06.08.06 at 8:57 AM

The better the wine, the better the vinegar, but I'd be willing to bet that even crappy wine produces better-than-average vinegar, because the store-bought stuff uses the lowest possible quality of wine.

Maria wrote:
06.08.06 at 9:01 AM

Unless all the bottles are soooo bad that they are completely undrinkable, I would probably open all of them, mix them together, borrow a big kitchen to cook up giant batches of coq au vin or Provencal daube, then sell them off through a charity bake-sale or potluck type event. Perhaps some of the 'not so bad' bottles will help compensate for the really bad ones. Toss in lots of aromatic herbs, veggies and spices into the pots and you may end up with some edible dishes. I know this goes against the grain of 'don't cook with wine that you would not drink' but it's better than dumping them out and the charity gets nothing out of it. They can chk to see if any of the local markets are willing to donate some of the chicken and beef.

Courtney wrote:
06.08.06 at 11:26 AM

I like the idea of doing a blending party. Blending is fun because you get to see how the varietals change when put together (assuming you've got at least two varietals) - so it's instructive AND fun for folks. Besides, who doesn't like a party? Especially a hands-on party? As far as making money, it sounds like the stipulation was that the wine itself couldn't be sold, but maybe you could charge to participate in the event.

Charlie wrote:
06.08.06 at 12:17 PM

As long as it hasn't turned to vinegar, I second making sangria. Or, if you can hold out until the winter months, mulled wine and its variants (glog, vin chaud, etc) are very forgiving too.

I've also made a red wine caramel sauce. The wine gives it a lovely color, but not an overwhelming flavor.

Jeff wrote:
06.08.06 at 12:52 PM

They can find a local potter that has a high fire kiln and make cheese plates out of the bottles to sell at a local boutique. Like the below,


Jathan wrote:
06.08.06 at 1:25 PM

Throw the first ever "Wine Skeet Shooting Contest".

Retrofit the machine, invite 2 dozen hunters at a couple hundred a head, and give each crack-shot 24 bottles to take out.

Just remember to recycle those shards!

Ragan wrote:
06.08.06 at 1:38 PM

Donate it to those monkeys in the Hungarian zoo. I'm sure they're not too picky.

Jean-Louis wrote:
06.08.06 at 6:07 PM

Aside from the turkey shoot mentioned by many folks, I'd vote for Sangria. Add a healthy dose of oranges, cinnamon, strawberries etc. et voila! Party on!
Or maybe blackmail the winery?

Ben wrote:
06.08.06 at 7:56 PM

I would build a fort.

Oh, and to make money, I would charge little rich kids $40 each to play in the fort.

Karen Bolla wrote:
06.08.06 at 8:14 PM

Have a Coq au Vin cook-off between noted local chefs and use it as a promotional Batille Day dinner for the non-profit. Give 10 chefs four cases and have THEM open and reject or use as they see fit. Have local poultry companies donate the chicken or sell at cost. Each participating restaurant can serve it as part of a celebration of traditional French cooking event for the night (many bad bottles of Burgundy go into Coq au Vin). Priceing can be at a "pre-euro" price or some other gimmick to sell it all out, benifting the non-profit. Food writers LOVE this kind of thing... free publicity! Go ahead and admit the wine was "iffy" and see what the chefs can do!

Tricia wrote:
06.08.06 at 9:48 PM

Someone's already said it, so I'll second it: make vast amounts of sangria and hold an event (a benefit depending on what kind of a nonprofit it is.) I also kind of love the coq au vin cook-off idea. Sell tickets and everyone can get a small sample of each chef's dish.

Jerry Hall wrote:
06.08.06 at 10:33 PM

Get a celebrity to sign the bottles and auction the bottles as "collectibles", not wine.

boyd wrote:
06.09.06 at 8:39 AM

Set up the bottles as pins and bowl. Bowl like the wind!

Jessica wrote:
06.09.06 at 11:17 AM

Fiesta de Sangria to stop Global Warming.
Make loads of sangria, throw a dance party and charge people at the door with promises of unlimited supply of sangria and donate the money to stop global warming.

Paula wrote:
06.12.06 at 1:57 AM

Hold a wine tasting class on identifying wine faults. This stuff would be a gold mine for my classes - it would be extremely helpful to actually know in advance if a wine has a fault and have a reasonably good idea why. In this case, other bottles in the same case should give a clue to whether the case is oxidised, old and brown, vinegar etc.

GollyG wrote:
06.13.06 at 12:24 PM

You could save it 'til Christmas and serve it as mulled wine, maybe at a carolling service or whatever. Following the religious theme, selling it on cheap to a church for communion wine spreads the donation.

Sangria covers a multitude od sins, and with 4th of July coming up you could borrow a Spanish recipe, re-name it American and serve it up ice cold with Coke (way better than it sounds).

David J wrote:
06.18.06 at 3:59 PM

...indeed, young Basques & Navarros
get drunk on weekends on 'Kalimotxo'- cheap wine & CCola!
...but 'all of th above' sounds good- open, taste-test, & allot by funk level to coq-au-vin & sangria/kalimotxo benefit event projects-- enjoy!

Darin wrote:
06.22.06 at 1:24 PM

I like the wine class idea. It would be cool for aspiring wine students to try and identify the faults in the wine and what caused em.

bob wrote:
06.26.06 at 10:02 PM

maybe you could tag on with this:

have a wine throwing competition - and also put some canvas out there and there ya go.

victor wrote:
06.28.06 at 9:18 AM

hand them out to your friendly neighborhood hobo, those funny bastards aren't too picky and if they start hassling you about "that crap wine you gave me" next time you walk down the street, well, at least now you know which ones are the Parkers of the gutters and you can hire one to help you pick some wine out next time you have a party. cheers!

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