One of the benefits of having a wine blog is that people often ask for advice on wine-related topics. (Yes, I see it as a benefit. I’m always looking for an excuse to talk about wine.) The most common question, by far, is “what’s a good cheap wine?” Of course it is. Just read the blog, friends. We’re always here.
Another common question is about how to preserve leftover wine. Wait, leftover wine? What’s that? Ha, I kid. Anyway, I’ve been thinking about this for a while and have compiled some of the common themes for your benefit. Though there is no perfect place to store opened wine other than a stomach, there are some actions to take.
Preserving open wine is all about oxygen. It that giveth life, taketh life away. And I’m not just talking about how it gives us life. It gives wine life. That’s why we swirl our glasses, decant wine, maybe even aerate it: oxygen opens the flavors and aromas. Unfortunately, though initially adding oxygen is a good thing, over time it causes flavors to fade.
There are three key factors to consider when protecting wine against oxygenation: space, temperature, and time.
After filling a glass halfway with wine, the surface of said wine is exposed to an unlimited amount of oxygen over time (unless you’re in SecondWorld). Same goes for a bottle. If 1/3 of a bottle is poured out, the rest of the bottle contains oxygen, and though not much air travels through the neck, over time it adds up. As such, the main goal when preserving open wine is to limit the amount of oxygen-rich air that fills this space.
There are many wine gadgets that attempt to fix this.
The VacuVin pump (around $10) – one of the most common gadgets in both homes and restaurants – pulls out air, creating a vacuum. The main drawback is that pulling out air, also pulls out out aroma goodness (which can often be smelled when using the device). There are some mechanical versions of this pump that work automatically over time, but the simple hand-pump version seems easy enough for all but the chronically lazy.
Another trick is to fill the space with inert gas. This is how those wall-mounted machines in big fancy wine bars work. At home, you can buy a smaller, but still expensive version of the wine bar machine, or try Private Preserve spray, which does essentially the same thing manually. I haven’t tried it, mostly because it’s more costly than some of these other methods (it runs out and you have to buy more, unlike the VacuVin).
The perhaps easiest & cheapest way is to transfer the wine to a smaller bottle. I keep a bunch of used glass bottles (375ml wine bottles work well) and jars in my house for this specific purpose. Find the one that is closest in size to the wine left over, and store it in that with an airtight seal.
Lastly, serious connoisseurs may want to consider a new invention called the Coravin that uses a thin needle and argon gas to allow for pouring a small amount of wine without actually opening the bottle. It’s not cheap ($300), but its promise is certainly intriguing.
Put simply, oxygenation occurs more slowly at lower temperatures. As such, it’s best to store leftover wine in the fridge. Let it thaw to cellar temp before serving. If drinking the wine the following day, storing it in a cool basement or wine fridge is probably fine.
Some wines – especially young, well-made wines – can improve with a day or so of oxygen. But in most cases, the longer you wait, the worse the wine will be. So drink it!