How to Keep Wine Fresh: Tips to Store Open Bottles

Image: Closeup of wine bottle and cork

Image: Closeup of wine bottle and cork

It’s a dilemma that strikes every wine lover at some point or another: What do you do with that leftover wine? Perhaps it’s the remnants of last night’s get-together or what remains from a bottle you opened for that special recipe. Whatever the reason, there are a host of solutions and wine preservers to help you out of your predicament!

The case against re-corking

Let’s start by looking at why you need to give this problem some thought. Can’t you just put the cork back in the bottle and get back to it later?

It’s not a good idea, and here’s why: wine is a food product that’s a living thing. Think about what happens when you cut an apple or peel a banana and leave it on the kitchen counter for a while. The browning that occurs on the fruit is caused by oxidation. The same thing happens to wine. 

While a little oxygen may enhance a wine’s bouquet – that’s why we swirl it in the glass or use a decanter – too much of a good thing can start a chemical reaction that robs the wine of its wonderful aromas and flavors, leaving you with a big old glass of vinegar. Not too appealing and, as you will see, easy to avoid!

How to extend the life of leftover wine overnight

Capabunga Wine Stopper Caps
Capabunga Wine Stopper Caps

If you have leftovers you plan to consume within 24 hours, a simple re-usable stopper will suffice. Many have expanding seals that adapt to an array of bottle sizes (not all 750ml bottle have the same neck dimensions!) and form a complete seal. There are special ones available for your bottles of Champagne and other bubblies, made to withstand the extra pressure these wines produce.

While good for overnight storage, these methods still leave oxygen in the bottle – the very thing you want to avoid.  If you like, pop the bottle in the fridge because refrigeration will slow down the aging process a bit.

How to keep open wine for a few days

So, what can you do if you want your wine to last for a few days?

For a good, basic solution try the vacuum-style pumps. Usually, the kit will contain special stoppers and a hand operated pump that fits on top of the bottle. You simply move the lever up and down until all the oxygen is removed. Some versions make a clicking sound to let you know when you’ve accomplished the task.

Some wine aficionados say that this method is a bit ‘rough’ and robs the wine of its flavors. You might find that this depends on the style of wine. A big bold California Cabernet Sauvignon might be a better candidate for this method than a delicate Pinot Grigio.

And don’t forget your old friend, the refrigerator. Any preservation method will be enhanced if you keep the open bottle at a cooler temperature as it will inhibit aging and potential spoilage.

Another option is the use of nitrogen or argon gas, similar to what the winemaker uses in the cellar. Argon is heavier than oxygen, so it lays like a protective blanket on top of the wine. Nitrogen is lighter, so it displaces the oxygen.

Private Preserve
Private Preserve

Private Preserve comes in an aluminum can and is fast and easy to use. Just attach the included straw to the nozzle and spray about three bursts directly into your partially filled wine bottle. Top it off with a stopper or the original cork and this should keep the wine protected for a couple of days.

What if you want to decant your wine after carefully choosing it from one of your bottle displays? The innovative Menu Breather Decanter will really fit the bill! The lead-free crystal decanter attaches to an open bottle of wine.  Simply invert them and watch the magic happen as the wine cascades into the decanter, aerating the wine to bring out its amazing aromas and softening tannins, too.

Should you have some wine left over, simply reverse the process to put the wine back in its bottle and use one of the preservation methods mentioned earlier.

How to keep wine throughout the week

WineKeeper Basic Keeper System
WineKeeper Basic Keeper System

But what if you like to open one or two bottles and enjoy them, by the glass, throughout the week?

The WineKeeper Systems are a great fit for this style of preservation. Connect a small canister of argon or nitrogen via a small hose to your bottle of wine to keep it constantly shielded from oxygen. A dispenser allows you to enjoy the perfect amount of wine to suit your mood, confident that the remaining wine will be perfectly tasty the next time you pour yourself a glass.

This is a terrific way of preserving fortified wines as well. No more wondering if that bottle of Port or Sherry is still drinkable!

These types of systems are also available in refrigerated versions – perfect for the white wine lover – and make attractive additions to your bar, wine cellar or kitchen.

With a variety of preservation options available, to suit every need and budget, there’s no need to use your leftover wine as salad dressing ever again!

What are your best methods to keep leftover wine from going bad (besides drinking it, of course)?

About the author: Hilarie Larson is a Certified Specialist of Wine and Wine Educator who loves to write and teach about wine in all its many facets. She received the “2013 Emerging Writer Scholarship Award” from the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association. Visit Northwinds Wine Consulting to learn more about bringing the enjoyment of wine to your private or corporate event.


  1. It’s good to know that a re-usable wine stopper will suffice to cover leftover wine you plan to consume within 24 hours. My dad received red and white wines from his friends from France. Knowing that he won’t be able to finish a bottle in one day, I plan to buy him some fancy wine stopper so he can keep the wine’s good taste.
    – James Lee Tucker

  2. Thanks for explaining that the pressure in the bottle is also an important factor to consider when it comes to storing wine. I’d like to look for discount wine soon because I’m interested in storing wine at home. I think those would come in handy when I have guests over or if I decide to cook steak for dinner.

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