|Can Wine be Saved? Feb. 09|
Can Leftover Wine be Saved?
Can this wine be saved?
What to do with leftover wine of is a constant dilemma for most people. Here are a
few suggestions that will help preserve the wine.
Ivanís Simple Tip:
My advice is that the bottle (either white or red) should ideally be drunk within
one evening, although reds may keep a little longer than whites. If it's reached the
correct age to drink, then it's actually starting to deteriorate as soon as you've
However, in practice it's down to personal taste. If you still think that it's
drinkable after a few days then that's fine. Personally, I'm willing to keep an open
bottle for a day, unless I'm desperate, I don't normally keep it longer than that.
Many people, on the other hand, are quite happy drinking a bottle that's been open 3
or 4 days. With some young red wines, that I've opened too early, I've actually
found that they've tasted better on the following night. There are indeed a handful
of wines that may be so tannic that they actually should be opened a day before they
That being said, I have to point out that usually air is the enemy of wine. What
follows is a more technical explanation of how exposure to air will spoil wine and
steps taken to avoid it.
Wine Geek Explanation:
Air alters wine in a couple of major ways, so says the studies done the University
of Davis in California, America's premier winemaking school. Twenty percent of air
is oxygen, and oxygen is the real troublemaker in a partially empty bottle. The
bacteria that turns wine into vinegar remains harmless unless oxygen is present.
Then the bacteria swings into action, converting alcohol into acetic acid and
producing an aroma that resembles a "hint of salad dressing." Depending on the
amount of available oxygen, an opened wine can start turning into vinegar in three
to five days.
Oxygen is also the instigator of oxidation, the process that can eventually make a
fresh wine smell like that bottle of wine your mom kept in the refrigerator for
months. An unopened bottle of wine in a cellar may take 5 or 10 years to get to that
point, the result of oxygen slowly seeping past the cork. A half-empty bottle of
wine, even if recorked and refrigerated, may show oxidation in a matter of days.
That's why all the devices claiming to extend the life of an opened wine aim to
minimize the wine's exposure to oxygen. Some, like Private Preserve, fill the empty
space, known as the headspace, with an inert gas such as argon or nitrogen. These
gases are heavier than air, so they sink below it and push the air out, in theory.
Vacuum devices like Vacu Vin and the Metrokane vacuum decanter theoretically pump
out enough air to slow oxidation. Restaurants and wine bars have another option that
is too costly for home use: the Cruvinet- or WineKeeper-type systems that dispense
wine using a tap while instantly replacing the dispensed wine with nitrogen.
My personal method at home and in our wine shop, The Wine List of Summit, is to
simply transfer any leftover wine into a smaller clean bottle, preferably filled to
the top to eliminate headspace. We keep an assortment of 375-ml half bottles, 187-ml
quarter bottles (the size "airline" wine comes in) and even smaller bottles
purchased from a lab supply company. By minimizing headspace - essentially mimicking
how the wine was stored to begin with - we have done the best we can for the wine. I
also used a Speed pourer to transfer the left-over wine in order to avoid contact
with oxygen, allowing the wine to last longer.
My method of decanting or transferring leftover wine into a smaller bottle
introduces more oxygen, which isn't good the scientists say, but by filling the
bottle to the top, I'm minimizing aroma loss. Since oxidation occurs gradually and I
typically finish the wine in the next two or three days, I think that's a smart
I will welcome any comments or ideas.