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Wine Advisor Express:
More on leftover wine

Yesterday's topic prompted such a flood of E-mail that I ran out of time to respond to you all personally - please accept my apology for this lapse of good manners. But since there's clearly so much interest in wine's longevity in an open bottle and what we can do to enhance it, let's stick with the topic for another day to round up several of the points you made and questions you asked.

  • What exactly happens to wine after it's opened? Wine doesn't "spoil" in the sense of becoming unhealthy, unlike leftover food that turns black in the back of the refrigerator. But it does start to change quickly upon exposure to air, and its good flavor will deteriorate after only a few days. A few wines - typically immature, "ageworthy" reds - will actually improve for a day or so in an open bottle. But within a few days to a week or so, any opened wine will start to taste dull and flat, and it eventually oxidizes, turning brown and sherry-like and unpleasant.

  • Can you delay the deterioration? Many of you offered comments and suggestions in addition to those we listed yesterday. The most common commercial systems involve either a small pump (one brand name is "Vacu-Vin") that removes some of the air from the bottle; or a spray can filled with inert gas ("Private Preserver" is one common brand) that you squirt into the bottle. Both systems aim to keep oxygen away from the wine. In my opinion, they only add a few days of life to your wine, and they are certainly most effective if you follow the instructions carefully. In any case, keeping the leftover wine refrigerated will slow down the process and buy you a little more time.

  • Several of you reminded me of a good option: Acquire a half-bottle (375 ml), empty it and clean it well. Next time you open a full bottle, gently pour half of it into the smaller bottle, filling it up with little or no air space. Recork it (or screw the cap back on), and it should keep for several weeks.

  • Pop the leftover wine in the freezer, where it will eventually solidify into a slush. Thaw it for enjoyment weeks or even months later. (This method, suggested in Wine Spectator more than a decade ago, remains controversial. One of these days I'll test it and report the results.)

  • Finally, one approach that I can't endorse: Several of you, perhaps jokingly, said you would rather finish an entire bottle at a sitting. With five standard 5-ounce servings in a bottle, this is really too much to be prudent for an individual to consume in a day. Many studies indicate that a drink of wine daily, or even two, can provide distinct health benefits. Five drinks a day on a regular basis would have catastrophic health effects, and I don't know of anyone who would recommend that.

Fine wine calls for moderation in its enjoyment. If drunkenness is your goal - and we hope it's not - there are less expensive ways to get there.

Express Notes:
We'll be late tomorrow

Because of a schedule conflict, Wine Advisor Express won't go out until late in the day tomorrow, rather than its usual morning publication time. See you then!

Administrivia
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Thursday, June 28, 2001
Copyright 2001 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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