Maxwell House coffee has a legal foothold on the statement, “Good to the last drop,” but there are many wines this writer enjoys at home that fits this decree as well. For many, it applies simply because they want to enjoy what they paid for completely. For others it’s about extending the experience for those wines that can withstand the time. What is one to do, then, if, for some crazy reason, the bottle cannot be finished in one sitting? There are ways to preserve your wine and there are reasons why you should do so effectively.
Oxygen: Wine’s Nemesis
Oxygen is a threat to wine practically throughout the entire winemaking process, save for a few points during fermentation where oxygen at the right time can often enhance resulting flavors, aromas and color. Once in the bottle or in your glass, extensive exposure to air can eventually “oxidize” the wine into a chemical compound called acetaldehyde, which smells like rotten apples in large amounts, and further into acetic acid, which smells and tastes like vinegar. Prevention of air exposure is much more critical for white wines than reds mostly due to the abundance of tannins, which are more abundant in red wines due to skin contact, and anthocyanins, which are responsible for color in grape skins prolonging the oxidization effects described above.
But Wait, There’s More… or Less
Ok, now that I told you that oxygen is bad, I need to tell you that some oxygen exposure is good and can actually enhance the aromatics and flavor profiles of some wines. Ah, this lovely world of wine we live in. To be fair, in this case we should be talking about aeration, which is the deliberate and controlled exposure to oxygen through the means of decanting and breathing, which aims to encourage the revealing of the wine’s bouquet. It’s precisely for this reason we swirl our glass before digging our nose in the bowl.
There are many devices available to help preserve wine and protect it from extended exposure to oxygen. They fall into the following categories:
Vacuum & Pump Systems
With the aim to prevent air from entering the wine, vacuum and pump devices have been developed to remove air from open wine bottles. They are as simple as using a hand-pump that sucks the oxygen from the remaining head space in the bottle or more automated systems like the SoWine by Transtherm which can ensure your wine stays fresh for up to 10 days.
Nitrogen & Argon Systems
Inert gases are also helpful in preserving wine because they blanket the surface of the wine preventing oxygen from penetrating the juice. These devices come in easy-to-spray canisters as well as more automated systems such as the PEK Supremo Wine Steward which utilizes argon and can preserve your bottle for up to 10 days as well. Most winery tasting rooms use inert gas to preserve open bottles.