Thursday, July 2, 2009

"K" is for Keeping Wine

While teaching my course at Fleming College called ‘An Introduction to Wine’, one of my participants asked the question, “How long does wine keep in the bottle once opened?”

This is a frequently asked question. Many wine lovers open a bottle of wine to enjoy a glass or two. But what do you do with the wine that is left over? How do you keep it fresh once the bottle is opened?

A wine’s style helps to determine its life span in an opened bottle. Champagne and sparkling wine have the shortest life span. Inferior sparkling wines will lose their effervesce quickly, so drink them to the last drop once the bottle is opened. If produced in the traditional methode champenoise, sparkling wine and Champagne can last a couple of days in the refrigerator, if re-corked.

White table wines have a relatively short life span, as well. When re-corked and refrigerated, a white wine will stay fresh for a couple of days. They will still be drinkable, but may lose some of their wonderful aromas and flavours. Some white wines with excellent acidity, such as white Burgundy, can often retain its character over a few days. White dessert wines, because they are generally high in the preservatives called alcohol and sugar, will keep longer when re-corked and refrigerated, sometimes weeks.

Red wines have a love and hate relationship with oxygen. While older vintages are decanted to remove sediment, young reds are decanted so they are exposed to oxygen so they can breath. Decanting allows for the wine’s aromas and flavours to open up. However, if exposed to oxygen for a few days without being re-corked and refrigerated, the wine will soon oxidize and eventually turn to vinegar.

If you intend to store an opened bottle of white or red wine overnight to drink the remainder on the following day, then re-cork the bottle and put it into the refrigerator, standing upright. Chilling the wine helps to slow the oxidation process. I do this regularly, as a bottle of wine rarely lasts more than two days in my house. If I am refrigerating a half bottle of quality wine, I will add a splash of vegetable oil to the bottle. The oil film helps to keep the wine from air exposure left inside the bottle, even after it is re-corked.

If you want to prolong the life span of your wine for up to a week, consider investing in a vacuum pump. This gadget pumps out air, before you re-cork the bottle. You can purchase pumps, such as the VacuVin. To use this device, you attach the rubber stopper to the bottle’s rim. The vacuum is attached to the top of the rubber stopper and air is sucked from the bottle. Some wine aficionados believe this method also draws out the wine’s subtle characteristics.

Scott A. Farmer of California’s Private Reserve developed a spray product called Private Reserve made from a mixture of various gasses (nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and argon) to be used to lengthen a wine’s life span. This is a gas that is sprayed into the opened bottle before it is re-corked. A gas film covers the wine and slows the oxidation process. When using spray products to keep wine fresh, be sure to push the cork into the bottle until it is level with the rim.

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