Vol. 1, No. 7, March 1, 1999
© Copyright 1999 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.
How long does wine keep in an open bottle?
Wine, like fresh fruit, is perishable, and air is its enemy. Once you've taken out the cork and exposed the liquid to oxygen, it starts to deteriorate pretty fast.
If you aren't picky, with most everyday table wines you can jam the cork back into the half-finished bottle and keep it at room temperature for a day or two before its flavor starts to deteriorate seriously. Pop it in the fridge, and it might last for a week or more. Fortified wines like Port or Sherry may last a little longer, but much more than a week is pushing it.
Wine shops sell preservation systems -- one popular model sucks the air out of the bottle with a plastic pump and special stopper; another uses an aerosol can to squirt inert gas into the bottle -- but I don't find these alternatives work well enough to be worth the price.
A more expensive system, akin to the commercial Cruvinet found in wine bars, pumps canned nitrogen gas through plastic tubing into an opened bottle and uses gas pressure to dispense the wine through a spout. It works better than the other systems, but I'm not sure it's really an improvement on refrigeration.
And finally, if you're really insistent on keeping a half-bottle of wine, some wine fanciers have reported good results with carefully pouring half of the bottle into a clean half-bottle (375 ml.), filling it up to the top, and then re-stoppering it with a clean, sound wine cork.
Your best bet, though, is simply to finish your wine within a couple of days ... use the leftovers for cooking ... or invite friends over to share.
One reassurance: Even if your wine gets too old to enjoy, it can't hurt you. It may lose its flavor and become flat, dull and unenjoyable, but it won't turn toxic.
If you've got good ideas about keeping leftover wine, I hope you'll share them. Send me E-mail!
Herdade de Santa Marta 1994 Vinho Regional do Alentejo ($7.99)
FOOD MATCH: Worked very well indeed with a spicy but not fiery Cajun-style meatloaf.
João Ramos 1997 Trincadeira Vinho Regional Alentejo ($9.99)
FOOD MATCH: The ripe, fresh fruit makes it an unexpectedly good match with corned beef and cabbage; it would also go well with ham.
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