…the air right out of a partially-consumed bottle of wine, that is. Actually we have quite a few vacuum and pump systems that will remove the air from an open wine bottle—from the convenience and luxury of the SoWine by Transtherm to the simple functionality of the Vacu-Vin pump system. Okay, I can already see the comments on just not having leftover wine, but sometimes it’s unavoidable and you’re left with an open bottle that you need to save for another night. That’s when you’ll need something to help preserve that wine.
Air: good for us, bad for wine
Fine wine and oxygen don’t mix. Prolonged exposure to oxygen will cause wine to oxidize, breaking down the aromatic phenols which gives wine its distinct bouquet and taste, and changing its sensory characteristics. Unless it’s a bottle of Madeira, these changes usually aren’t good. The bouquet can smell a little cooked or raisiny, the taste is flat or a little off, often masking the true flavor of the wine, and the color may have turned brown.
While you can still drink this wine and it won’t harm you, it probably won’t be a pleasant experience. But, wait, don’t pour that wine down the drain. While it may not be good for drinking, it can still be used for cooking. So stick the cork back in it, put it in the refrigerator and save it for Coq au Vin.
Less Air = Less Oxidation
Vacuum and pump systems work by removing most of the air from an open bottle of wine and slowing down the oxidation process. Does it work? Well, it often depends on the wine and if some slight oxidation would actually benefit it. I’ve been using a Vacu-Vin for several years now and this has been my experience.
If I simply stick a cork in a half-consumed bottle of wine and leave it out at room temperature, it may last until the next night. If I stick that bottle in the refrigerator, it may last for two days before it starts to taste funny. If I use my Vacu-Vin and leave that bottle out, it still tastes fine sometimes up to 3 days later, and if I put it in the refrigerator, it can last up to a week. Now I’ve made it a habit to just stick one of the Vacu-Vin stoppers into the bottle immediately after I’ve poured a glass. If, by the end of the evening, there is still wine in that bottle, I pump out the air with the Vacu-Vin until I hear that clicking sound that says I have an adequate vacuum and stick it in the fridge.
Oh, a couple of suggestions. I avoid laying an open bottle on its side and prefer to stand the bottle upright. By laying the bottle on its side when it’s not completely full, you’re creating more surface area for wine to come into contact with the remaining air in the bottle and speeding up the oxidation. And buy some extra stoppers. After entertaining, I find I always have more leftover open bottles than stoppers.