Wine Talk with Alice Swift
Wine Preservation Methods
The inspiration for this month’s article comes from my social media feed, actually. After doing my daily browse through my Facebook friends’ posts, I saw a wine-related question come up (reworded for clarity): “How long does a bottle of wine last after it has been opened?” It’s never a simple answer, as there are so many factors involved (red, white, age and other characteristics of the wine, storage conditions, etc.)
Technically, wine begins to “expire,” or oxygenate, shortly after it has been opened. However, some wines do need some exposure to oxygen in order to open up the aroma and flavor characteristics within. Generally, the less exposure of the wine to oxygen the better, when trying to preserve it. Instead of focusing on answering that complicated question, I thought I would share some of the wine preservation methods that are used within the industry and in the home. In addition to some of the traditional methods, there have been some new innovations that have come to market in the past few years.
Traditionally, there were three major categories of wine preservation after a bottle has already been opened: inert gas, cabinet systems and vacuum systems. Inert Gas usually consists of some type of unique combination of gases that are heavier than oxygen, typically a blend of argon, carbon dioxide and/or nitrogen. Various brands can be found in your local wine shops, or purchased online (e.g. privatepreserve.com). Cabinet Systems usually are a combination of the inert gas concept with automatic dispensing capabilities. The system pours your wine as it replaces the void with inert gas. Oftentimes these systems are used in restaurants that offer wine tastings and wines-by-the-glass to preserve the wines longer. There are many competitors that offer a variety of cabinet systems for commercial use, such as Enomatic (nomatic.com), and also for home use Vinotemp (vinotemp.com). Finally, the vacuum system is a simple concept where a pump and rubber stoppers are used to pump all the available oxygen out of a bottle. It is the least expensive option, and can extend the life of a wine, especially in combination with proper refrigeration in a wine fridge. Though there are many options available, one brand that is reliable and has been around for a long time is Vacu Vin (vacuvin.com/products/wine-saver).
In recent years, there have been more companies trying to create new inventions for preserving wines. AirCork (aircork.com), formerly called “Wine Balloon,” its inventor Eric Corti was initially featured on the show Shark Tank in late 2012 (he initially accepted a buyout offer, but then changed his mind and decided to take the entrepreneurial route). The concept is simple. A balloon is inserted into the bottle and is inflated until the balloon touches the sides of the bottle. This seals the wine off, significantly reducing exposure to oxygen. Since then, the product has lived on, winning first place on the Food Network show Invention Hunters (formerly called Kitchen Inventors).
Another ingteresting invention, called Savino (savinowine.com), was first introduced on Kickstarter. This product does require using the proprietary carafe. Once the bottle of wine is poured in, the “float” is inserted, which creates a seal between the wine and the oxygen, then the lid is placed on top.
Another innovation I’ve been reading about is quite intriguing, as the bottle of wine is NEVER opened until perhaps the last glass, yet consumers are able to extract the wine. Coravin (coravin.com) was invented by Greg Lambrecht, and involves inserting a fine needle through the capsule and cork into the wine within the bottle. The remaining wine in the bottle is preserved by the inert gas inserted in its place by the device. Natural cork will then reseal itself, leaving the bottle intact and unopened. Of course, this product will not work with synthetic corks or screw caps, but due to the price range of coravin, it’s likely that you would only be using this for your higher-end wines.
If your opened wine is just too late to be saved, there are always some other options to repurpose your non-drinkable wine in addition to just cooking with it! Here are just a few options for you to try:
• Mulled Wine
• Wine Reduction/Sauce (Make a sauce to pair with your entrees, even add balsamic vinegar to make a wine reduction.)
• Wine Syrup (Use as a sauce/syrup for desserts, ice cream, etc.)
Options for wine preservation have certainly evolved and grown over the past several years. I look forward to seeing the continued advancement of the wine innovations that will be upon us soon in the coming years.