By Madeline Blasberg
Delicious as it may be, sometimes it takes a lot to make it to the bottom of a bottle of wine. A standard wine bottle (750 mL) contains approximately 5 servings, and despite even the most valiant effort – wine leftovers are sometimes inevitable. Sadly, they are also terribly misunderstood. Wine drinkers wonder: Can I just put the cork back in? Should I stick it in the refrigerator or leave it on the counter? And most importantly – how long is too long?
Once a wine’s cork (or screw cap) has been removed, it has a one-way ticket to simply falling apart and turning foul. The younger a wine is and the higher its alcohol content, the stronger its defenses, while aged wines tend to more rapidly spoil once the first glass has been poured. But no wine is immune. Therefore, helping leftover wine withstand the test of time is a matter of risk management.
Light and temperature shock are just as dangerous to wine as ever before, but once the cork is out, the wine is exposed to its #1 adversary: Oxygen. This essential element in our atmosphere is kryptonite to wine – it dulls flavors, strips away color and all around degrades the integrity of this sacred nectar.
Here are a few tactics you can use to extend your wine’s drinkability:
- Store it in the fridge
A light chill can slow down oxidation and bacterial reactions that would otherwise convert a delicious wine into delicious vinegar, extending a wine’s life for up to 3 days. However, extreme temperature changes can shock a wine, ruining its chances of expressing its original splendor. Red wines stored in the refrigerator come back up to room temperature shortly after being poured.
- Transfer containers
Transferring the wine into a clean, airtight container, filling it to the top and sealing it tight is another way to extend its post-cork life. By reducing the exposed surface area, oxygen has less room to wreak havoc. And the smaller the surface area, the lower the risk. Store the new container in the fridge for up to 2 days for whites and 3 for reds.
- Use a Vacuum Pump
Small hand-held vacuum pumps fit over the neck of the bottle and a handheld pump is used to extract oxygen lurking inside the bottle – leaving behind a tightly sealed bottle and safe wine leftovers. Vacuum wine pumps are available at most liquor stores and supermarkets and can extend the life of a wine up to a week!
- However, some wine connoisseurs advise against this technique as it may cause sharp pressure changes and strip the wine of CO2 as well as natural esters and aromas.
- Inject Inert Gas
For the true gadget-loving wine drinker, an inert gas injector is the ideal wine preserver. A mix of inert gasses (including Nitrogen, Argon and Helium), which are heavier than oxygen, is injected into the top of a bottle from a compressed canister and the cork is quickly popped back into place. The gas fills the empty space of the bottle, pushes the oxygen out of the way, and shields the exposed surface area from harm. This technique is reputed for best extending a wine’s life, but also totes a hefty price tag.
A note on sparkling wines:
Keeping bubbles alive and well after opening a sparkling wine is a slightly different challenge. Rather than simply popping in a cork, you’ll need to use a sparkling wine stopper – a specialized plug that clamps onto the neck of the bottle to keep bubbles in and air out. Sparkling wine stoppers are available for under $10 at most liquor stores and supermarkets.
Ultimately, how long you keep a wine after it’s opened comes down to your drinking standards – and tasting sensitivity. True wine gurus notice a change in the wine only a few hours after the cork is removed, while many home wine drinkers happily store a bottle for a week in the fridge, siphoning off sips whenever the mood strikes.
Simple techniques – and a few geeky gadgets – can help you preserve your wine leftovers, but inevitably the expiration date rolls around. If you notice the “drink by” day has lapsed, freeze the leftovers as ice cubes and use them in an upcoming recipe! No harm, no foul.
Author Bio: Madeline Blasberg is a Certified Wine Consultant currently working for Etching Expressions as Official Wine Commentator & Reviewer. She has spent time living in Mendoza, Argentina where she was surrounded by wine, both personally and professionally.
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