When you have a nice dinner at home with friends and family, you will probably end up drinking all the bottles of wines you are opening. In other moments, for example when you feel like having just a glass of wine for yourself while relaxing reading your book, what are your options? Recently many of you have been asking about how long you can keep a bottle of wine or Port once opened and what are the best tricks to keep it fresh for as long as possible.
So let’s begin with the basics: What happens when you open a bottle of wine or Port?
When you pop up a bottle, Oxygen – the main troublemaker- gets in contact with the wine components and triggers a chain of reactions altering its structure, its color, its aromas and its flavours.
The pace of the changes depend on many factors (which I won’t be able to cover all today) but mostly on 3 main ones:
– The temperature you are storing the wine at
– The surface of the wine in contact with oxygen and
– The time the wine has been opened.
More oxygen will dissolve into your wine at cold temperatures but the changes will happen slower, while at higher temperatures, less oxygen will dissolve in your wine but the changes will happen faster. As everything, it is a question of balance!
Today, I want to share with you the tricks I use and my experience using some tools available on the market. I suggest you find your own combination to preserve your wines depending on the conditions you have and the tools you want to use.
All those tricks are equally good for Port and for wine. Due to its higher content of sugar and alcohol, Port is more resistant than wine but I recommend you treat it like wine and not like spirit. The changes will simply happen slower with Port under the same conditions.
1-The best and easiest way to preserve your wine is to keep it in a space with as little contact with oxygen as possible and store it at cold temperature to slow down the oxidation process. If you can plan ahead, find a smaller bottle that you will fill upon opening your bottle of wine. Then keep it in the fridge until next service. You can easily keep your wine for a week like this with little impact. This is how we handle our samples at the winery using half bottles or emptied sparkling/tonic water bottles of smaller size.
2- If you plan to drink the remaining wine over the next 1-3 days. Simply put the cork back on the bottle, leave it on the counter, away from the light at room temperature (12-16C 53-60F). This is what I normally do at home, it is my sweet spot where I find the oxygen does not dissolve much into the wine and the temperature for the oxidation reactions is slow enough. This way I can also follow the evolution of the wine and it gives me an idea how it will evolve when I’ll want to open my next bottle. If you can’t get your bottle at this temperature, put it in the fridge, it is better to have your wine preserved at lower temperature than extreme temperatures, especially for summer days.
3- If you like gadgets, you can use those vacuum pumps to remove as much air and oxygen as possible from the wine bottle before putting back the cork. This will slow down the reactions and help you keep your wine as good as trick #2 but up to a week. If trick #2 fits you, you don’t really need this tool.
4- Another tool is inert gas.There are many solutions in the market but from my experience the best one is Coravin. How does it work? This gadget is applied to a closed bottle and its small needle allows you to extract the wine while replacing it with an inert gas (Argon gas), ensuring oxygen never touches the remaining wine. Once you are done, you simply remove the gadget and the cork will naturally expand again to its original shape. The cost of such a gadget is not inexpensive but it does seem to keep your wine fresher and brighter for a longer period of time. In my experience using Coravin, I felt that sometimes the wines got a bit dull and bitter. Also, when used many times on the same bottle, the cork has its limitations therefore I’ve seen many leaking.
5- Try to open your leftover bottle the fewest times possible. Anytime you open your bottle again, fresh oxygen comes in and more changes will happen. Ideally, you’d drink your bottle and its leftover on 2 different occasions. For Port it is less dramatic but the fewer the better.
6- Always keep your bottle standing up. If you keep it stored on its side, you’ll simply increase its surface in contact with oxygen and increase the oxidation process.
Answering some of your questions:
“I’ve heard I could put a spoon on top of an opened sparkling wine or beer to keep it fresh and bubbly if I preserve it in the fridge”.
It is a popular belief and I don’t know where this comes from, but from my experience it is just a myth.
“I’ve seen many friends keeping their Port in a nice decanter in the living room for many years. It is safe to drink?”
Yes! The big difference over the years between Port and wine is that Port will not turn into vinegar and will still be proper for consumption. It will just have a dramatically different aromatic and flavor profile.
I hope this text answers some of your doubts and if you have any more questions, please do not hesitate, I’ll do my best to answer them!