How to best preserve an open bottle of wine?
February 26, 2007 11:19 PM   Subscribe

WineFilter: seeking advice and recommendations on wine-preservation devices/techniques.

I like wine. I like my liver. I don't like being wasteful. So what are some good ways to help preserve the freshness of a bottle of wine once it's been opened?

Years ago I tried this $10 plastic "hand vacuum" thingy that came with 2 plastic/rubber "corks" -- it really didn't seem to have any useful effect. The principle seems sound to me though, and a quick search yields a long list of gadgets with wildly varying prices ($10-$100's). In particular, this vacuum decanter seems like it has potential; the stopper looks like it might be well-built enough to hold a seal, and having another decanter can't hurt... or am I just setting myself up for disappointment? Hive mind oenophiles, I await your wisdom.
posted by kanuck to Food & Drink (19 answers total)
This stuff. It's a heavy gas that forms a blanket on top of your unfinished wine.
posted by machaus at 11:39 PM on February 26, 2007

Years ago I tried this $10 plastic "hand vacuum" thingy that came with 2 plastic/rubber "corks" -- it really didn't seem to have any useful effect.

Try the rubber corks -- basically you want to evacuate remaining air from the bottle. If you have a good seal and the corks are pliable, then the "cheap" solution will work as well, doing the same work as the more expensive technology.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:05 AM on February 27, 2007

I second the gas method. Works very well, does not affect the taste or scent in any way.
posted by judith at 12:43 AM on February 27, 2007

For what it's worth, this guy is saying Private Preserve is not a heavy gas, it's just nitrogen; the idea being that you are displacing air (containing oxygen) with an inert gas.
posted by knave at 1:45 AM on February 27, 2007

The best way to preserve wine from oxygen damage: pour it into a smaller bottle, where there won't be any headroom.

Keep a few Grolsch-style bottles, or some other bottles that are smaller than a 750 mL wine bottle, with an airtight resealable cap.

When you've had your 1.5 glasses of wine, pour the rest into the empty bottle(s) and leave as little headroom as possible. Recap. Repeat. You may also want to store the leftover wine in the fridge, to slow the oxidization process slightly.
posted by rxrfrx at 4:34 AM on February 27, 2007

Machaus has the right idea, as does knave - the key to preserving wine is purging oxygen. The "stale" flavors in week-old wine are almost entirely caused by oxidation. Whether you use Private Preserve or any other gas source, the point is to get the oxygen out of there; while some gasses may technically be heavier, in an environment that small, the partial pressures will tend to equalize and you won't get a "blanket" of heavy gas on the surface of the wine - you need to use enough to get the O2 out.

Even using this technique, I wouldn't expect totally awesome results; you should probably still drink any given bottle within 5-7 days. This is not a liver-harmful consumption rate, is it? If you still can't do it, find a friend to share the last glass; I think one reason we've settled on 4-glass wine bottles over the last couple centuries is that it's the perfect amount for two people to share over the course of dinner and an evening. You can fight it all you want, but wine is a very delicate beast and it's easier to work with than against.

Also, I disagree with rxrfrx about decanting any wine you intend to store; unless you purge *all* the involved containers of oxygen beforehand, the pouring process is basically the equivalent of shaking up the wine which will bring along the oxidation process considerably. In fact, roughly decanting wine and letting it sit out for half an hour is known as a quick way to "open up" a young bottle that you simply can't wait for any longer - somewhat the opposite of preserving it.
posted by rkent at 5:40 AM on February 27, 2007

rkent: if you believe that purging all the oxygen in the bottle will keep the wine fresh for 5-7 days, why do you go on to say that simply dissolving some oxygen in the wine and then re-sealing it without headspace will lead to spoiled wine (presumably in less than 5-7 days)? You are contradicting yourself.
posted by rxrfrx at 5:59 AM on February 27, 2007

Personally, I have always had good luck with the "plastic pump and rubber cork" doodad, also known as the Vacuvin.

It's important to get the rubber stopper wet to help form a good seal, and to pump until the handle of the pumper really shows resistance.
posted by briank at 6:38 AM on February 27, 2007

I use the Vacuvin. Then throw it in the fridge. Honestly, though, wine will generally keep overnight if you just re-cork it and stick it in the fridge. Really.

There's a wine whose name I can't remember (Daniel Bouloud is one of the guys behind it) that comes in a 3-liter can with a spout (the wine itself is in a plastic sack) that keeps a perfect vacuum between pours. Keeps for weeks in your fridge.
posted by mkultra at 7:12 AM on February 27, 2007

Second the vacuvin + fridge. Works well enough to preserve your wine for a day, two at most.
posted by NekulturnY at 8:08 AM on February 27, 2007

My rules of thumb for this: If it's a sufficiently good bottle of wine that it won't hold in the fridge, find an occasion and friends to drink it with, and finish it. If it's not, re-cork it and keep it in the fridge. If not drunk within a few days, use for cooking. I have a Foodsaver vacuum sealer that has bottle attachments, and I've found that I can't tell the difference between wine that's had the air sucked out of it and wine that's simply been recorked. Keeping it cold is the important part.

Bag-in-a-box wine is a great alternative if you can find one you like. They vary from "swill" to "pretty good". The whites seem to be better on the whole than the reds, although the Black Box cabernet is pretty drinkable.
posted by Caviar at 8:28 AM on February 27, 2007

A few people have mentioned the fridge. This is fine for whites, but Harold McGee (the Curious Cook) advises against this when it comes to red wine:
...chilling causes dissolved substances in more complex red wines to precipitate into solid particles, and this causes irreversible changes in flavor [emphasis mine].
Refrigeration doesn't make much sense in general with reds outside of a quick chill to cellar temperature. After extended refrigeration, you have to wait for the red to return to room temperature, and even then the degradation in quality is about the same (or for nicer bottles, worse) as natural oxidation.
posted by stance at 9:17 AM on February 27, 2007

I don't think that contradicts my fridge advice above.
posted by Caviar at 9:24 AM on February 27, 2007


It doesn't, which is why I didn't link to you ;) In fact, I would personally supplement it to your advice.
posted by stance at 9:30 AM on February 27, 2007

Another second for the Vacuvin. It certainly depends on what kind of wine it is though. Some do well for several weeks, others will taste significantly worse just after a day.
posted by KimG at 9:34 AM on February 27, 2007

Any method that removes the O2 from a bottle is good. Wine once opened though will not last more than a week no matter how good your process is. Once oxidation begins it doesn't stop, it only slows as time progresses.

White degrades much more slowly than red as well. A red with a high tanin count will degrade much quicker than others. And so on.

Best to just finish the bottle in a sitting. Enjoy your wine while you can...
posted by pezdacanuck at 12:41 PM on February 27, 2007

If it's good wine it wont actually die within hours. Most wineries will keep an opened bottle of wine available for tasting for three or four days, and it's still fine. It gets a little chancier by the end, but one or two days is no problem.
posted by twirlypen at 1:40 PM on February 27, 2007

Some followup commentary/clarification:

I should have mentioned that the timeline I'm interested in is only a few day, maybe a week max, and that even with budget red wines in the $10-15 range I do notice a difference between day-of vs day-after-opening (nothing terrible, just not as nice).

My gf doesn't drink much so most meals I'm the only one partaking.

I'd like to make wine more of a daily thing and having some variety rather than feeling obliged to spend the next 3 days drinking the same every time I open a bottle.

Caviar, I have historically followed the same rules -- but I'd love to have the flexibility to open up nicer bottles even without a special occasion, and to minimize the degradation that takes place even overnight with simple re-corking.

Re: wine in a box -- my experience is that the packaging does indeed do a reasonable job of keeping air out even after opening.. but as the selection tends to be very limited (and each box tends to be large) I prefer to stick to it for cooking wine (especially when needed in quantity for something like coq au vin or such).

Thanks for all the responses, esp machaus for the pointer to "Private Preserve". I'm compelled to give it a try (at ~$10/can for 100+ uses, if it's as good as reported I'll be very happy). I've always wondered how restaurants/bars that offer a large selection "by the glass" handle this problem, and these folks claim significant restaurant use. If my Vacuvin clone resurfaces I'll probably give it another chance -- and try wetting the rubber seal first.
posted by kanuck at 2:05 PM on February 27, 2007

You might also consider buying half-bottles instead.
posted by Caviar at 7:14 PM on February 27, 2007

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