Saving leftover wine
With most wines, this process is negligible for the first few hours and possibly overnight, and (as discussed in the Feb. 28, 2000 Wine Advisor, http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor/tswa022800.shtml), a bit of air may even benefit young, immature wines that show tannic astringency before they mature.
But suppose you can't finish the bottle in an evening or two? Is there any reasonable way to preserve it for enjoyment at another time?
The answer, I'm afraid, is that it's possible but not very practical. Several commercial accessories are available, including systems like the trademarked "Vacu-Vin" that remove some of the air from the bottle with a small plastic pump and special stopper; the "Private Preserve" and other systems in which you squirt inert gas into the bottle from an aerosol can; and the somewhat more expensive "Keeper" and commercial "Cruvinet" systems that use inert gas to protect wine and dispense it through a spout mechanism. However, my experience with these devices is that they don't prevent deterioration for more than a few days.
Some people swear by dropping clean marbles or other small, non-reactive objects into the half-empty wine bottle until the liquid reaches the top, thus driving out the air. And one method that does work surprisingly well is to decant half of your wine to fill a smaller bottle, then put a cork in it. (This works best if you do it as soon as you open the larger bottle, to avoid exposing the wine to air.)
Many years ago, a Wine Spectator writer controversially advocated freezing leftover wine, a process that he swore left the wine unharmed and, upon thawing and warming back up to serving temperature, just as good as new. Many experts, however, argue that freezing damages wine by precipitating out its acids in crystalline form, significantly changing its flavor.
Ultimately, though, most wine lovers - including me - simply put the cork back in a half-empty bottle and try to finish it as soon as possible, preferably within a day or two. Refrigerating the leftovers does seem to extend their life a bit, to possibly as much as a week for simpler whites. But no matter how you try to keep your wine, bear in mind that the clock began running as soon as you pulled the cork.
A NOTE TO LONG-TIME SUBSCRIBERS: A few of you old-timers may note that we covered this topic more than a year ago, on March 1, 1999. Because of the dramatic growth of our subscriber list to more than 12,000 readers around the world, I may occasionally repeat topics on frequently asked questions. When I do this, though, I'll make every effort, as I have done here, to tell the old stories in different ways, adding new information and not merely lazily recycling old columns. I hope this is OK with you!
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A blend of 55 percent Sangiovese (the Chianti variety) and 45 percent Primitivo (the grape that's thought to be a twin or at least a sibling of Zinfandel), this unusual and highly affordable red wine from Apulia in the "boot heel" of Southern Italy is designated "Indicazione Geographica Tipica," a relatively new Italian designation indicating a wine made of grapes and in a style considered typical of its region. Very dark ruby in color, it shows ripe sour-cherry aromas with spicy notes of chocolate and cinnamon. Tart and fresh, red-fruit flavors are structured with zippy acidity; light-bodied but lasting, it's a well-balanced table wine and a very good value indeed. U.S. importer: Winesellers Ltd., Skokie, Ill. (April 8, 2000)
FOOD MATCH: A fine match with pork chops with citrus and mangoes in a nuevo Latino preparation (posted on The Food Lovers' Discussion Group at www.wineloverspage.com/cgi-bin/sb/index.cgi?fn=2&tid=2508.)
Tasters Guild New York
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Vol. 2, No. 12, April 10, 2000