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When wine goes bad

It doesn’t take a sommelier to identify when a wine has corked. It smells damp, unappealing, maybe a bit like wet dog, and tastes even worse. This occurs in around 10% of all bottles, when bacteria is transferred to the wine on the cork. The process is irreversible, and if you were banking on that bottle for a cosy night in, it could even be devastating. 

Good wine vendors – such as our friends at Oxford Wine Company – are happy to exchange the affected bottle in this unfortunate circumstance. But what do you do if you are stuck with wine gone bad? I found myself in this situation when I returned to Oxford after the vac – cheap wine, opened and left in the kitchen far too long. I am always loath to pour wine away, so I let it sit until I decided what to do.

These bottles sat in the kitchen, abandoned and forlorn until inspiration struck – or perhaps madness. Ok, it was neither; I just hate putting away laundry so decided to spice it up by dyeing my shirts using, you guessed it, old red wine. I could pretend I thought this through, or at least googled in advance. Instead I shoved the shirts in a large bowl, poured two bottles of red over them, and kneaded the fabric with my hands like Bacchae at a midnight ritual. 

I then let it sit on a shelf for three days. Why? Because that was how long it took me to be bothered to do something about it again. The next logical step was to wring out the wine and wash the shirts. This was something of a cathartic process, though I wish the blood red of the wine had been retained in the fabric. Instead they were a dusky shade of pink.

This could not be said when they came out of the washing machine. My shirts had turned grey. A nice grey, and one that in truth I’m more likely to wear than their original pink, but a baffling, dark, almost blueish, grey. My flatmates, it turned out, had googled dying shirts with wine; you’re supposed to heat it to get the colour to stick. This still doesn’t explain the grey.

Regardless, my brief foray into insanity was fruitful – if you’ll pardon the pun. I was grapeful that it was. I found a use for the wine, I have a new look, and my peers regard me as more insane than ever. Bacchus would be proud. I’ve also learned not to be afraid of a little spilled wine on my collar – soak the whole shirt and you’ll be turning heads.

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