A good bottle of wine is something to be treasured. If you’ve not finished the whole bottle, you’ll probably want to keep the rest for next time. Recorking can be a difficult thing to do at best, and often the cork won’t survive the opening of the bottle intact.
Despite corks being less regularly used in bottling these days, they’re still prevalent in the top wines, even if many of them are no longer actually made from cork but from plastic. But whatever material they’re made from, they have a tendency to crumble or break after you extract them. So, what can you do to preserve your lovely drink from the ravages of oxidation?
Let’s see why wine goes bad in the first place, and then we will look at your options, from the cheap and improvised to the expensive and high-tech, so you can keep your half-drunk wines for longer than a few days.
Why Do Good Wines Go Bad?
Once you open a bottle of wine, two chemical processes begin that will start to change the flavor and even the color of your drink.
The reason for these chemical processes is the process of fermentation itself. Once the wine has been bottled, some of the remaining bacteria from the fermentation gain access to oxygen once more, and begin to convert the ethanol alcohol present in the wine into both acetic acid and acetaldehyde in an oxidation process.
In the very short term, this can actually improve the flavor of the wine, especially in reds. Unfortunately, depending on the wine’s quality and type, after a few hours or days, it will start to create a flavor similar to bruised fruit, or it will reduce the flavors present in the wine, which is called ‘flattening.’ Either way, the solution is to try to reduce the amount of oxygen that the wine comes into contact with.
Fashion a Homemade Cover
The simplest and cheapest option, making your own cover might not be the most effective solution, but it can certainly do the job in a pinch. Even better, you’ll probably have all you need in your kitchen already to make it work, so you don’t have to leave the house to find what you need or wait for a delivery from online stores.
Whatever you use, the idea is to try and create a full seal over the mouth of the bottle. The easiest answer is to use plastic wrap and an elastic band. Just pull the wrap taut over the bottle’s aperture and then seal it off with the elastic band, doubling the band back over itself so that it forms an airtight seal around the neck.
Use a Wine Stopper
Many wine lovers will probably have a drawer full of these little gadgets already, but if you don’t then this one is a simple fix that you should give a go. Easily available from many supermarkets and home stores, as well as online, the quality can vary significantly. Again, the aim of the game is a perfect seal to stop more oxygen entering the bottle and coming into contact with the wine inside.
These silicone wine stoppers by Outset are a great example of an affordable and reliable option. They are easy to attach and remove, dishwasher-safe, and create an airtight seal on the majority of wine bottles on the market. They’re great for red or white wine, though not so good for sparkling wine and Champagne, which require somewhat more specialized equipment to last for more than a day or two after opening.
Remove the Oxygen
As we’ve seen, contact with atmospheric oxygen is the cause for your opened wine bottles going bad, so the most effective solution can be to remove that oxygen from the equation. You have a few options on this front.
Generally similar to wine stoppers, vacuum seals go a step further and work to remove the air that has entered the bottle. The Vacu-Vin is a great example that uses a hand pumping mechanism to create an airtight seal and remove all the oxygen, keeping your wines fresh for up to two weeks.
Vacuum seals aren’t so great for sparkling wine and champagne, however, as they will also cause the carbonation that causes the bubbles to be sucked out too. Even so, a decent vacuum seal doesn’t have to cost a fortune and can be one of the best and most affordable options.
Replace the oxygen with inert gas
If you can get all the oxygen out of the bottle, then you can stop the oxidation process. One alternate option to sucking it out is replacing it with an inert gas like argon. You can combine a normal wine stopper with a spray like Private Preserve’s Wine Preservation Spray, to push out the air and replace it with something that won’t harm the wine.
A much more expensive, though highly effective option, is to use the Coravin Wine Preservation System, which never lets the wine come into contact with oxygen in the first place. Available for both cork and screwcap-sealed bottles, it works by piercing the lid and pumps in argon as it pours out oxygen, essentially allowing the wine to last as long as it would have in an unopened bottle.