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How to preserve an open bottle of wine.

In these times of responsible drinking and with conflicting health advice about the dangers and benefits of moderate wine consumption, here is the best way to spread a bottle of wine over 3 days. Oxygen is the enemy of open wine. Oxygen combines with alcohol (ethanol) in wine to form ethanoic acid (vinegar).

Whichever method you choose, the cold of your domestic fridge is the best place to keep open wine. Yes, even and particularly red wine. Take the wine out of the fridge, about an hour before you want to drink it. The colder any wine is, the less it will oxidise.

Vacuvin, the innovator of the vacuum pump and stopper is very well known. Open many a kitchen draw and you will find stoppers lying around and the pump alongside. This vacuum pump and stopper has been much copied and it has only been in more recent years that research has been done into the effects that the vacuum has on the wine in the bottle. What was not widely recognized until quite recently, is that too powerful a vacuum will do more harm than good to the flavour of wine.

Research and tastings have shown that the ideal vacuum under which wine should be preserved is 0.3atm (one third of 1 atmosphere). Drinkers used to pull the pump so many times that the vacuum was too great, so reducing the pressure to such an extent that the wine would be “pulled apart”. Wine is composed of many complex molecules and the more delicate ones would literally be pulled out of the wine solution.

During early 2008, Vacuvin introduced a patented ‘Click’, which indicates roughly when 0.3atm has been achieved and so the drinker should stop pumping. Due to the reduced pressure in the bottle, air will always creep back in and so, the efficacy of the stopper is reduced over night.

A more advanced version of this is the EuroCave Wine Art, which has electronic calibration built into it, creating a near perfect vacuum (which is monitored) thus extending the time over which the wine remains palatable.

Taste tests of open wine have shown the above helps the wine to taste as good as it could the next day and beyond.

It is important to remember that the wine is being preserved from the time the preservation system is introduced. If half the bottle has been drunk over the proceeding hour or three, then some oxidation will have already occurred and oxygen will have been mixed with the wine. Dissolved oxygen will continue to oxidize the wine until it has all been used up. The colder the wine is kept, the slower the oxidation.

If one wishes to drink, say, up to half a bottle (375ml) then gently pour out this half into another vessel and immediately vacuum stopper the rest of the wine left in the bottle AND PLACE IT IN THE FRIDGE, ESPECIALLY RED. It may be worth noting the general consensus that up to 300ml of red wine is beneficial to health, with anything over this volume considered less beneficial.

The superior alternative to partial vacuum preservation is the use of a gas blanket such as 'Winesave Argon Gas Preserver' which uses inert gas Argon to inhibit oxidization. Argon is far denser than Nitrogen, so forms a complete seal over the wine surface as well as being less able (if not completely unable) to dissolve into the wine over time. A gas blanket has the benefit of being applicable for use in a decanter used with a stopper. Ideally do not disturb the decanter or bottle once you have used the gas blanket.

Unless you use an electronic system to create a perfect monitored vacuum, the longest we suggest a wine will remain palatable is 72 hours.

Text Copyright, EuroCave UK.