The question of how to preserve wine is a common and important one. Those of us who don’t necessarily finish every bottle we open need to know how to keep our wine as fresh and drinkable as possible. After all, letting good wine go to waste is a very sad thing! But that’s exactly what will happen if you simply re-cork and leave your bottle on the counter for a few days. The reason is air, or, more precisely, oxygen, which is both wine’s best friend and its worst enemy. Once a bottle is open, oxygen “wakes up” the wine, enhancing its aromas and flavors. That’s the purpose of using a decanter and/or swirling your wine in the glass. But too much air over time will turn your wine to vinegar, and air doesn’t care whether the wine is cheap plonk or first growth Bordeaux. So here are some tips on how to preserve that half-finished bottle of wine.
- Put it in the fridge. Refrigeration slows down the aging process of perishable items, and once open, wine is perishable. Do this for all wines, red or white. For red, of course, take the bottle out 30 minutes before drinking to allow it to come up to proper temperature.
- Gas it. Private Preserve is a widely available canister of safe, inert, flavorless gas (the mix is nitrogen, argon and carbon dioxide) that is heavier than air. Use the included straw to spray into your bottle for three seconds, then re-cork. The gas will drive any air out of the bottle and rest like a protective blanket over your wine. Combine this method with the first one, and you buy yourself a few extra days.
- Use a vacuum closure. For still wines, you can use a Vacu-Vin pump closure, which sucks the air out of the bottle. For sparkling wines, you will definitely want a proper Champagne stopper. These latch tightly to the bottle mouth, preventing any blow-outs (which will happen if you just jam a cork in there) while preserving those precious bubbles. Both these methods will also give you some extra time.
- Another option is to transfer the wine to a smaller bottle, then cap it or cork it. This significantly limits the surface contact between air and wine and can be quite effective.
Each of these methods can be quite helpful for preserving wine. Keep in mind that some wines need little or no preservation. These include sweet and/or fortified wines like Sauternes, Port and Australian stickies, because both sugar and higher alcohol serve as preservative agents. Conversely, non-fortified wines that have seen lengthy aging will degrade quickly, so your best bet in that case is to invite friends over and make sure you finish that bottle!