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How to keep a wine once opened

Some people don’t manage to drink a bottle of wine in an evening and very carefully put the wine aside to drink the next night. Sometimes the wine tastes better the next day and other times worse. In this spotlight we are going to review different methods of preserving open bottles of wines as well as understand what happens to a wine once opened.

There are six topics

Introduction

When preserving wine you are primarily trying to stop oxidation by minimising how much Oxidation interacts with the wine.

There are many systems out there for preserving wines. Some work better than others, and preserve a wine for longer. In this spotlight we are going to look at the most common and most economical methods of preserving an opened bottle of wine.

One thing to remember when preserving wines, is that all methods are improved by keeping the bottles upright, (it reduces the amount of surface area that can interact with oxygen). Keeping an opened wine (red and white) in a fridge will slow down any oxidation reactions which means the wine will oxidise slower. Try to avoid keeping the wine in the fridge door as you want to keep the wine as still as possible to stop mixing wine with oxygen.

To prevent a wine from oxidising you have two general approaches:- remove air from the bottle or stop the air getting to the wine. We'll start with removing air from the wine. 

Removing Air generally is done by pumping it out and lowering the pressure. You may recall from school science, the lower the pressure, the lower the boiling point of liquids. As a result many people get concerned that volatile aromas and flavours from the wine will be removed. In my experience I have not noticed this and while it may occur it is not something to be too worried about. 

Typically removing air gives 3-4 days of life on half a bottle or more of wine. Around 2-3 days for less than half a bottle, but don’t bother less than a 100ml. There are two common products.

Vacuvin

Costs:£5-£10 Vacuvin is a very simple system that consists of a small hand pump and rubber like stoppers. You place the stopper on top of the bottle and put the pump on too. Pumping the handle sucks air out of the bottle. When you can’t pump anymore the job is done. To get at the wine you either pull the stopper off which can be tricky or many stoppers either have a knob you push or you squeeze the stopper and air flows in to release pressure.

Preservation:- Gives 3-4 days of life on half a bottle or more of wine. 2-3 days for less than half a bottle, don’t bother less than a 100ml.
Pros:- Cheap and simple
Cons:- Pump requires some strength, it's easy to lose stoppers, the pump wears out after a couple of years of heavy use. Bottles occasionally leak if kept on their sides after preserving.

Presovac

Costs:£250-£300 This is an electric version of the Vacuvin. It again is often sold as an easy system for bars and pubs to use. In the home I found it to be of limited use. It does pump air out the same as a Vacuvin, however keeping the pump charged is almost impossible unless you have it continually plugged in. It comes with a big heavy inefficient transformer which gobbles up electricity so you don’t want to leave it on. The problem is that whenever I wanted to preserve some wine with it, the battery was flat. It did not hold charge at all well. Add to this the fact my electric pump simply broke after a couple of hundred bottles making the entire system pointless. I cannot recommend this for home or bar environments.

It does have one saving grace. You can put the motor in reverse and pump in air. This is great if you want to preserve sparkling wines, as a high bottle pressure stops bubbles coming out. The CO2 from the fizz should protect the wine from all the added air in the bottle. But remember to keep the bottle still and upright.

Preservation:- Gives 3-4 days of life on half a bottle or more of wine. 2-3 days for less than half a bottle, don’t bother less than a 100ml
Pros:- Less muscle power required.
Cons:- Expensive to buy and operate, complex and likely to break, flat batteries mean it never works when you want it.

Private Preserve

Costs:£5.50+vat - £10 per bottle This is one of the best ways of preserving wine for extended periods. By spraying an inert and heavier than oxygen gas into the bottle, it displaces oxygen into the bottle and forms a protective layer over the wine. Not all the oxygen is removed so it is essential to keep the bottle upright and still. Not in the fridge door! Private Preserve claims that a canister does up to 120 bottles but my experience is more like 50-60 which equates to 20p per bottle for a £10 canister.

Preservation:- Gives 1-2 months of life on half a bottle or more of wine. 1-2 weeks for less than half a bottle.
Pros:- Great method for preserving wines for longer periods of time.
Cons:- Expensive on a per bottle basis, tends to run out so re-ordering required, using it costs money.

Empty Half Bottle

If you plan on only drinking a small amount of wine occasionally then two empty half bottles with screw cpas are perhaps the best and cheapest way of preserving wine. Take a typical 750ml bottle pour it slowly and smoothly so as to minimise any oxygen getting into the bottle and fill to the brim. Immediately seal the bottle with its screw cap. This wine will keep almost as well as the unopened larger bottle. Now pour yourself the required glass. Pour the remaining wine into the other half bottle and preserve this using one of the methods above. You now have half a bottle that can be drunk anytime in the future, and say half a half bottle that can be drunk over the next 2-7 days, depending upon your preferred method of saving the wine.

Obviously if you have less than half a bottle of wine to preserve, carefully pouring it in to a half bottle will mean that it will last much better than in a large bottle. 

Pros:- The best method of preserving half a bottle of wine by far, very cheap.
Cons:- Risk of microbial infection from the dirty half bottle (very rare), bit fiddly, needs one or two half bottles with screw caps.

Summary

The solution that you use depends on how long you want to keep the wine preserved. The following is a sensible approach for keeping wines in good condition with minimum of fuss and cost.

  >half bottle < half bottle < 100ml
Next day Cork in bottle Vacuvin Private Preserve
1-5 days Vacuvin Private Preserve Half bottle + (Vacuvin or Private Preserve)
5-14 days Private Preserve Private Preserve Half bottle + Private Preserve
14-60 days Private Preserve Half bottle + Private Preserve Don’t bother

For maximum life, don’t forget to keep a wine still and upright in a fridge for both white and red. But don’t forget to take red wines out 6-8 hours before drinking to warm up.