Sometimes (but admittedly not that often for me), you run into the issue that you have an open bottle of wine which you just can’t seem to finish-off.
There seems to be an ever increasing amount of gadgets on the market which claim to preserve your opened bottle of wine, much longer than if you were to simply put the cork back in. I’ve always found that in the extraordinary case of having an unfinished bottle at home, 2-3 days with just the cork in is normally the maximum amount of time a wine will go before you’ll see a certain amount of deterioration.
So the question is, which method of wine preservation really works?
Vacuum devices are becoming increasingly prevalent, and they run the gambit from cheap hand-operated pumps (1st image), which you can find at stores such as Target; right the way through to more expensive sealer systems which seal a decanter (2nd image).
The concern is that whilst you can certainly create an air-tight seal by using these types of products, what are you really removing from that bottle?
Wine contains a number of flavor compounds, and by sucking all the air out of a bottle, you’re also sucking out the flavor "esters" or the "aroma" of a wine. I think that the method is indeed flawed, but it’s still better than doing nothing at all…
I wasn’t even going to give this next method a mention, but in the interest of the article: displacement with marbles!
The idea behind this method is that you simply pour marbles into your unfinished bottle, the level of wine gets pushed to near the top, and you place the cork back in therefore minimizing the amount of air in the bottle.
Just a few problems that I can see without even attempting it first:
– I can imagine the method could be quite time consuming.
– Your friends will no doubt make fun of you.
– The marbles need to be virtually sterile before placing them in the bottle.
– You’re in for a hell of a shock the next day if you forget about the marbles as you try pouring a glass of wine!
From my childhood experiences, I do recall that marbles tend to be made of glass, and are therefore fairly fragile. All it takes is for one or two of those marbles to chip, as you pour them into a wine bottle (in your no-doubt drunken stupor), and instead of enjoying that well-preserved, rich and chewy Napa Cabernet; you and your loved ones will be chewing on shards of broken marbles. Not cool.
Ronn Wiegand (Master Sommelier and Master of Wine) recommends the unlikely method of freezing the bottle. The "Wiegand method" as it has been named, involves standing the bottle up (so as to not pop the cork), ensuring that the cork is relatively clean, and simply placing the bottle in your freezer.
"As long as you have the freezer space to spare, freezing is the only way I know to preserve opened wine not just for days, but weeks, months, or even years." says Wiegand.
I don’t mind saying that I was a little skeptical when reading this statement, but if there’s anyone in the world who knows what he’s talking about, it’s this guy!
The method obviously isn’t all too practical for restaurants or even for home use, that is if you plan on drinking the bottle without 4+hours notice!
Another method used by a number of restaurants (1st image), but for the most part too costly for home use (although I’m saving up for one as we speak); systems such as the Cruvinet or WineKeeper dispense wine using a tap. They then replace the dispensed wine with an inert gas, whilst at the same time keeping the wine at the correct temperature.
Products such as the 2nd image to the left from www.wineaccessoriessales.com/, offer an ingenious and more economical solution for the home, a single tap with a small Argon / CO2 cylinder that is placed in the bottle. When you compress the handle, the wine is dispensed and the nitrogen fills the bottle. The company looks relatively new, and this is the first time that I have seen the product. I can imagine that the nitrogen canisters aren’t too cheap, but otherwise this looks like a great system!
Products such as Private Preserve use the same system, but on a much smaller, most cost-effective scale. A mixture of CO2, Argon and Nitrogen puts a layer of inert gas between the cork and the wine. This is a product that I personally use at home, and certainly know it to extend the life an opened bottle by a few extra days. I also know for a fact that Chateau Mouton Rothschild use the Private Preserve. Don’t ask me how I know that, I just do.
The overall aim of systems such as these is to displace the air that’s in the bottle. Always be wary of restaurants or bars which have an extensive "by the glass" program, and don’t use any method to preserve their open wine!
Wines are often placed in the refrigerator to lessen the oxidation of wine in order to slow down chemical reactions, applying the same principle as to foods. One thought however is that cold temperatures make oxygen more soluble, therefore once the bottle has been opened, and oxygen has been allowed to enter the bottle, you replace one problem with another.
Now I can see the science behind this, but I think that as long as you drink the bottle within a few days of placing in the refrigerator you’ll be fine, (which is the same effect you get as storing the wine at room temp).
Just finish the bottle!