Sooner or later you will come across a bottle of wine with just two or three pours remaining that you simply cannot finish, no matter how high the quality or price. This is not an indication that your love for wine is waning. As the saying goes, sometimes you really can have too much of a good thing. Fortunately a number of solutions exist for preserving leftover wines for appreciation at a later time.
Of course, not all of these are equally effective, so one must approach all of them with an open yet inquiring mind. As usual, we will take into account the dual considerations of function and form – any method of wine preservation must be effective and aesthetically sound.
Functionally, all methods of wine preservation mainly deal with oxygen exposure. If left open too long a wine will become sour and unpalatable, fit for nothing but cleaning your drains. As for the aesthetic considerations, I offer the examples below for your perusal.
These vacuum pumps are inexpensive and are becoming more prominent in various wine bars. While it is good showmanship to provide an explicit demonstration of wine care, my concern is that human action is not sufficient enough to completely remove all oxygen from the bottle, and therefore any oxidation of the wine inside would only be delayed slightly. Also, the awkward pumping action just seems unsightly in your regular wine bar or restaurant.
The Coravin wine access tool does look aesthetically pleasing and the mechanics behind it are sound. A thin, hollow needle is inserted into the cork closure and argon gas is injected, displacing the wine and allowing you to pour a small sample.
The first problem is effectiveness – more and more wines are being closed under screwcap and synthetic corks, which are not suitable for this device. Secondly, it is quite costly, and would be prohibitively expensive for all but the most dedicated and wealthy wine enthusiast, or restaurants with highly selective wine lists.
Mason Jar / Small Bottle
Using a small mason jar and filling it to the brim is a simple way to ensure less oxygen remains in the container. Because this does not look aesthetically pleasing (unless your tastes lean towards the hipster spectrum) small wine bottles are another alternative.
While most wine shops mainly stock full-sized bottles, they will usually have a small selection of half- and quarter-sized wines on offer, which will be a good opportunity for you to try wines at lower prices.
With this method I have kept wines for up to a week with little deterioration. The downside is that you must be very precise in your measurements – if you open a wine an don’t expect to finish it, it would be best to pour the wine into the smaller bottle first before consuming the remainder.
Inert Gas Spray
This is essentially a canister of argon and other inert gases that are denser and heavier than air. It is sprayed into the bottle so it sinks to the bottom, covering the remaining wine and protecting it from the air. A one-second spray is usually enough, and once canister can be used for many applications depending on the brand and size.
The longest period I have kept a wine using this method was a month, and even after this time the wine was still vibrant and expressive, as though only minutes had passed since opening the bottle.
Out of the above methods, the inert gas spray is my recommendation. It’s a simple and elegant solution that is relatively inexpensive, and is effective regardless of the amount of wine remaining. The only downside is that it’s difficult to know when the canister is empty, but this will come with experience, and ensuring you have extra canisters on hand will help.
Using smaller vessels is an acceptable secondary option, and encourages recycling of used smaller bottles. If you find yourself having less than half a bottle of wine remaining, you can use the final two methods together to ensure your wine remains drinkable for at least another month. As always, knowing and learning the best practices will come with experience.
P.S. – I’m now offering personalised wine consults. Know your palate and what to look for, and start choosing some good wines!
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