Let’s drink the rest later! How to keep wine after opening

The older I get, the more often it happens: not being able to finish a whole wine bottle during one evening, even when there are two people sharing the wine. Sometimes I may open a couple of different bottles, simply because I want to taste two or more wines side by side. The rest will wait for later. But how long does wine remain drinkable after opening? And what is the proper way of storing opened wine so that it stays fresh longer?

As soon as you open the wine bottle, oxygen starts to cause chemical reactions in the wine. At first, oxygen has a positive influence on the wine. It will help the aromas to open up and soften harsh tannins in young wines. But eventually, wine exposed to oxygen will start to lose its freshness and fruitiness. At first, it tastes flat and when it’s fully oxidised, simply horrible. How quickly this happens, depends on the style and age of the wine. An older wine which has already been almost or fully developed in a bottle will collapse rather soon after opening – in a few hours. A bold and tannic younger wine, instead, may even taste better the following day.

5 ways of storing opened wine

“Wine will last good several days after opening,” one hears often. If you just put the cork back and don’t do anything else to preserve the wine, it’s not true. In such a case, I may be happily drinking the wine the following day but not any longer. It’s not that the wine would be spoiled but it simply doesn’t taste that good anymore. Luckily there are many tips on storing opened wine! Here’s a list, from the simplest and cheapest solution to the most expensive and professional one.

1. Keep it cool

Re-cork the bottle and place it in the fridge. Yes, also red wine. Lower temperature slows down the chemical processes caused by the oxygen. You also keep food in the fridge because it stays better there. The same applies to wine. In case you have a bottle of sparkling wine, you can’t place the cork back. If you don’t own a sparkling wine stopper, cover the mouth of the bottle with plastic wrap and secure it with a rubber band. Tadaah, you’ll still have fizzy wine the next day (at least if the wine has been made using the champagne method – Prosecco will lose its bubbles faster).

2. Move the wine into a smaller container

The more there’s wine in the bottle, the less there’s space for oxygen. Pour the rest of the wine into half or quarter bottles. So simple, so efficient. If only I would always have empty and clean small bottles in my cupboard…

3. Wine pump

This tool is affordable and easy to buy in many places. You place the rubber cork that comes with the pump and sucks the air out of the bottle manually until you hear a click sound.  I know many people who swear on their wine pump claiming that it keeps wine undamaged at least a week. Others find it more disputable. Some claim that the pump sucks also compounds that affect the taste. According to some tests, the rubber cork isn’t tight enough and will let air slowly in. After a couple of days, there may be again as much oxygen in the bottle as before vacuuming. But just as I said, I have heard many positive testimonials about the wine pump so give it a try. Just remember to keep it away from sparkling wines since the pump will suck out carbon dioxide – that is, bubbles!

4. Inert gas spray

If you don’t believe in pumping out the oxygen manually, you can try to replace the oxygen with something else: inert gas. Spray forms a protective layer on top of the wine. Such gas sprays are relatively inexpensive and seem to be working well.

5. Coravin

This is THE wine tool that everyone is lusting after. It makes able to enjoy wine without even opening the bottle! You insert a thin needle through the cork, inject argon gas through the needle, and pour the wine into your glass. Just a tasting portion or a full glass, it’s up to you. The wine in the bottle doesn’t come in contact with oxygen, and the cork reseals itself quickly. In this way, you can taste that precious bottle you have been saving. You don’t have to drink the whole bottle within the next days. Instead, you can come back to it after some months or even years. Some people say, though, that once there’s less than half a bottle left, the rest will not remain good for a longer period. Due to its hefty price, Coravin will not be the wine equipment for all. Using it also costs, since you have to change the argon canisters regularly. Thus, Coravin owners don’t bother to use it with inexpensive wines. But even if you don’t personally own Coravin, you may still profit from it as more and more wine bars purchase one – and have a longer list of rare wines by the glass!

What’s your best trick for storing opened wine?

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