Forget everything you’ve read about fancy and sophisticated (read: expensive!) ways to preserve leftover wine. After many debates at wine parties, I finally decided to run a series of semi-scientific tests to find out how to best preserve that unfinished bottle. I say semi-scientific as my get-out-of-jail-free card because some of you will cry out that not every variable was controlled (they weren’t). I’m trying to simulate the real world – how most of us would deal with unfinished wine that’s worth keeping. Remember, I’m talking about wine that was delicious and worth saving for another time. If you didn’t like it, pour it down the sink, make vinegar or better yet, mulled wine. Life’s too short.
Here are the 5 wine-preservation methods I decided to try. My goal was to see which method kept the best wine after 5 days. All bottles except for method 1 were stored in the refrigerator.
Method 1: Re-corking the bottle and leaving at room temperature. Re-corking should prevent additional oxygen exposure and stop any aromas from escaping.
Preparation: Uncork, pour 1/2 the content out, re-cork. Left on kitchen counter top. Temperature throughout the day and night – 65 degrees fahrenheit +/- 3 degrees (our place is well-insulated).
Method 2: Re-corking the bottle and storing in the refrigerator. Same as method 1, with the additional benefits of lowering the temperature to reduce the rate of any chemical reactions.
Preparation: Uncork, pour 1/2 the content out, re-cork. Stored in refrigerator.
Method 3: Vacuum sealing the bottle and storing in the refrigerator. One of the more common ways to preserve wine. By extracting most of the air out of the bottle, you’re minimizing any oxidation that may occur.
Preparation: Uncork, pour 1/2 the content out, vacuum-sealed using Vacu Vin Wine Saver. Stored in refrigerator.
Method 4: Replacing the air in the bottle with inert gases that won’t react or alter the wine.
Preparation: Uncork, pour 1/2 the content out, oxygen in bottle replaced with Private Preserve (combination of Argon, Carbon Dioxide and Nitrogen). Stored in refrigerator.
Method 5: Storing wine in a smaller container so that there is minimal space (and oxygen) in the bottle.
Preparation: Poured the just-opened wine into a used a 187ml (1/4 the size of a regular wine bottle) screw-cap wine bottle. Stored in refrigerator
After 5 days, I opened all the bottles and uncorked a fresh bottle for comparison. Before tasting, I brought them all to 60 degrees.
My tasting notes.
Bottle A – Freshly opened bottle. Taste fresh, fruit forward, clean. As expected.
Bottle B – Re-corked and left at room temperature. Decent. Slightly oxidized (very small hint of vinegar and nuts) on the nose, but still quite nice. Pleasant surprise as I thought it would be quite nasty after 5 days!
Bottle C - Re-corked and stored in the refrigerator. Muted aromas. Did not like this very much. Strangely, it feels more oxidized, flavor is more flabby than I would have expected.
Bottle D – Vacuum sealed and stored in the refrigerator. First impression is “Hey, there’s no smell!” but it’s there if you focus. Very laid back aromas. Something’s missing. It feels like you’re tasting the wine with a dirty glass. Did not like this one.
Bottle E – Replacing the air in the bottle with inert gases that won’t react or alter the wine. Aromas are still there, good fresh fruit. But, I have to say I’m a little disappointed since this is the way most bars store wine. It’s gotten a little flabbier – not as punchy as the control bottle.
Bottle F – Storing wine in a smaller container so that there is minimal air space (and oxygen) in the bottle. Smells closest to the freshly opened bottle. A lot of fruit coming through, definitely has the most structure. It’s good. I think this is it! This is the best way to preserve wine.
So there you have it! Based on this experiment, here is the list of ways to preserve wine for 5 days, starting with the best:
Using a smaller bottle (Best!)
Using inert gasses
Re-cork and leaving at room temperature
Re-cork and storing in the refrigerator
Where can you get small reusable bottles to store wine? Check out your grocery store. Any glass bottle with a screw cap will work. I’ve been using a 6-pack of screw-top Bella Sera Pinot Grigio bottles (size: 187ml), as well as several green Perrier sparkling water bottles. Most of these will also have the same opening size as a regular wine bottle so you can re-use the cork as well. The added benefit is that if the cork as the winery stamped on it, you’ve just marked your wine!
In a future experiment, I’ll find out how long a small bottle will keep wine fresh! As always, if you have a wine experiment that must be done, send them to email@example.com.