If you’re a casual wine drinker, you buy a bottle every now and then to have an occasional glass with dinner. You don’t finish the bottle off in one sitting, and you’re not one to waste, so you recork and return it to your counter. A few weeks pass, you’re in the mood for another taste, so you pour yourself another glass and–it does not taste the same. Sour. Acidic. Definitely not something you’d like to drink again. What happened to that tasty bottle you uncorked a few weeks ago?
Oxidation is one of wine’s greatest frenemies. It’s a necessary part of the fermentation process for some wines, but overstepping the careful balance can turn your wine to vinegar. While the wine is sealed tight in its bottle, it’s shelf life is lengthy. Once a bottle is opened, however, it’s a race against the clock to keep it fresh.
While we can’t stop oxidation, there are ways to slow it down. The key: minimize the wine’s exposure to oxygen.
Is your bottle half-empty, or half full? Trick question: it’s 100% full, half of wine and half of oxygen. One of the tricks to keeping wine fresh is to minimize its exposure to oxygen, including the oxygen in the bottle. If you’ve drank half or more of the bottle, that’s half a bottle’s worth or more of oxygen now trapped inside with the wine. Instead of saving small amounts of wine in its original bottle, transfer it to a smaller container. A smaller container means less oxygen, decreased oxidation, and fresher wine.
Another trick is to store the opened wine upright, in order to minimize the surface area exposed to oxygen. This will keep it fresher longer. It also prevents the wine from spilling all over your fridge.
Speaking of the fridge: refrigeration can help your wine stay a little fresher for a little longer. Because it’s cool and dark, it will slow the oxidation process slightly. Likewise, keep your wine (whether opened or unopened) out of direct sunlight and heat sources. The top of your fridge is a popular alcohol storage choice, but the outside of your fridge, since it’s constantly running, is much warmer than your countertop or cabinets would be. It’s better to get a wine rack.
Apart from best storage practices, there are some gadgets that will help preserve the wine, however their effectiveness varies. Vacuum pumps are a popular choice, which suck the extra air out of the bottle in order to reseal. Some claim that, because it’s only a partial vacuum, it doesn’t help much to be worth it, and that creating a pressure difference extracts aromas from the wine. There’s yet to be any scientific evidence that supports this argument. In most vacuum-sealers’ experiences, this method does keep the wine fresher for longer. It’s a great choice for casual drinkers, and according to a test done by Wine Folly, kept wine fresh for up to 2 weeks.
Another method is inert gas preservation. This tool is an expensive option, but is a preferred method for the serious wine enthusiasts. The device extract the wine by poking a hole through the cork and filling the empty space in the bottle with inert gas (or, gas that is chemically inactive: it will neither react nor combust with oxygen): nitrogen, CO2, or argon, usually. The key for the gas is that it must be denser than oxygen in order to sink below the oxygen in the bottle and blanket the wine. Nitrogen and CO2 are the most common because they’re cheap.
Overall, the best wine practice is to drink wine as soon after opening as possible. No matter how you preserve it, the wine will always be freshest when first opened (or after given the appropriate breathing time, in the case of many reds).
Interested in more tips and tricks for your wine? Visit our winery and chat with our staff! Enjoy fresh wine made on-site with the grapes from our vineyard, and learn about the harvesting, processing, and preservation of each bottle.