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Leftover wine?

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Robin Garr

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Leftover wine?

by Robin Garr » Fri Mar 31, 2017 12:44 pm

(From today's 30 Second Wine Advisor)

Leftover wine?

How long can you keep wine once the bottle has been opened?

A very long time ago - okay, it was March 1, 1999 - I posed this question in one of the first editions of The 30 Second Wine Advisor. During the ensuing 18 years it has remained one of my most frequently asked questions, along with its snarky cousin, "Is there such a thing as leftover wine?"

I took this long trip down memory lane just this week when I noticed that Bon Appetit writer Marissa A. Ross had taken on the same question, and offered very similar advice. Good work, Marissa! Here's a link to her column.

Let's take a quick look at my 1999 advice, with a couple of 2017 updates added in bold:

How long will wine keep once the bottle has been opened? This may be the one wine question I hear most often; and the short answer, I'm afraid, is, "not very long." Wine, like fresh fruit, is perishable, and air is its enemy. Once you've taken out the cork and exposed the liquid to oxygen, it starts to deteriorate pretty fast.

If you aren't picky, with most everyday table wines you can jam the cork back into the half-finished bottle and keep it at room temperature for a day or two before its flavor starts to deteriorate seriously. Pop it in the fridge, and it might last for a week or more. Fortified wines like Port or Sherry may last a little longer, but much more than a week is pushing it.

Wine shops sell preservation systems - one popular model sucks the air out of the bottle with a plastic pump and special stopper; another uses an aerosol can to squirt inert gas into the bottle - but I don't find these alternatives work well enough to be worth the price. I've become a little more forgiving, after seeing friends in the import business using suction or aerosol methods to keep tasting samples in good shape.

A more expensive system, akin to the commercial Cruvinet found in wine bars, pumps canned nitrogen gas through plastic tubing into an opened bottle and uses gas pressure to dispense the wine through a spout. It works better than the other systems, but I'm not sure it's really an improvement on refrigeration. This nitrogen-powered system, intended for wine bars or very serious enthusiasts at its $900 toll, keeps four bottles safe under inert nitrogen or argon gas.

Also, new since I wrote this, the somewhat more affordable ($299) Coravin system uses a hypodermic and argon gas to extract a glass at a time without removing the cork, purportedly making it possible to enjoy a prized bottle, one glass at a time, over several weeks.

And finally, if you're really insistent on keeping a half-bottle of wine, some wine fanciers have reported good results with carefully pouring half of the bottle into a clean half-bottle (375 ml.), filling it up to the top, and then re-stoppering it with a clean, sound wine cork.

Your best bet, though, is simply to finish your wine within a couple of days ... use the leftovers for cooking ... or invite friends over to share.

One last reassurance: Even if your wine gets too old to enjoy, it can't hurt you. It may lose its flavor and become flat, dull and unenjoyable, but it won't turn toxic.

So, how do you handle your leftover wine, assuming of course that you have leftover wine? Please share your best wine-saving tricks.
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Michael G.

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Re: Leftover wine?

by Michael G. » Fri Mar 31, 2017 2:08 pm

The kids are grown up, married and off on their own. It's just my wife, four dogs and me and my wife does not like the taste of alcohol. That has posed an almost insurmountable obstacle to my enjoying wine at home.....until last year when my daughter gave me a Coravin for my birthday. Wow! This thing works like a charm. How long will a bottle last? I have a couple that have been drawn from as much a two and three months ago and each draw is as good as the very first. My daughter in in the business and used the Coravin at a restaurant where she was wine director and never once had a bottle go bad.

If there is any downside it's the high cost of the argon capsules which Coravin sells under their name. They are just regular food grade Argon capsules with a plastic collar epoxied on in order to fit in the Coravin cylinder. Over the counter Argon capsules do not have that collar and would not work but for this.............there is a way to remove the plastic collar and then just pop it onto any argon capsule. Coravin's are about ten bucks apiece and regular capsules can be had for between $3.75 and $4.50. That's a huge saving.
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Re: Leftover wine?

by Robin Garr » Fri Mar 31, 2017 2:20 pm

Michael, thanks for the testimony. I've been reluctant to get into Coravin because sticking the leftovers in the fridge works as a rough and ready (and free) solution for me. If I drank more high-end wines, though, I'd buy one in an instant in order to maximize the enjoyment of special bottles over two or three sessions. (My wife does drink wine but usually a small glass is enough for her, so we often make a bottle last for two dinners.)
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Dale Williams

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Re: Leftover wine?

by Dale Williams » Fri Mar 31, 2017 4:53 pm

Good article. I usually refrigerate (including reds) to coax another day or two out.

When I was single I often did the 375 method- just immediately fill a 375 to the top (no air is goal), close, and put in fridge. Very little degradation over a week.

But besides using for cooking, another option is to get some "mother" and start making homemade vinegar. Mine is a bit rustic (and the dead flor can be gross looking), but tasty, and it's fun to serve or give.
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Re: Leftover wine?

by Rahsaan » Fri Mar 31, 2017 6:21 pm

People have encouraged me to get the Coravin, and maybe I'll have to do it at some point. (Christmas gift perhaps) It really would be a game changer.

Right now I usually only open wine on the weekends because I wouldn't want to have more than a glass or so during the week, but also wouldn't want to 'waste' the whole bottle. I have gotten increasingly sensitive to degradation/oxidation, and find very few wines interesting on the second day.

For some mystic reason I am skeptical about Coravin. It seems like the wine should be affected. But perhaps that's just romanticism on my part.
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Re: Leftover wine?

by Robin Garr » Fri Mar 31, 2017 10:47 pm

Rahsaan wrote:For some mystic reason I am skeptical about Coravin. It seems like the wine should be affected. But perhaps that's just romanticism on my part.

I don't know that mysticism is a necessary explanation, Rahsaan. Every past preservation system has been over-hyped. I'd like to hear testimony from wine nerds who I know personally and trust before I'm fully on board. And even then, my winestyle is such that I'd need a long time to amortize even $299 in preserved wine.
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Sue Courtney

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Re: Leftover wine?

by Sue Courtney » Sat Apr 01, 2017 4:07 am

I'm of the opinion screwcaps preserve wine longer once opened then pushing a cork back in the bottle ever could. I put whites in the fridge and reds in the cupboard. Young whites unfailingly never fail up to 3 weeks. You can eek a few more days out of young pinot. I'm not so sure about older reds however - it depends a little on the wine style and how oxidatively they are made.
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Fredrik L

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Re: Leftover wine?

by Fredrik L » Sat Apr 01, 2017 7:10 am

I love Coravin and it has totally changed the way I drink wine! I just ate my way through Stockholm's fine dining establishments, and they all - without exception - not only used but lauded the innovation. Thanks to Lamprecht I could try the 97 Gaja Costa Russi, the 95 La Landonne and the 90 DRC Echézeaux, all in sublime form.

Greetings from Sweden / Fredrik L
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Tim York

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Re: Leftover wine?

by Tim York » Sat Apr 01, 2017 8:36 am

Fredrik L wrote:I love Coravin and it has totally changed the way I drink wine! I just ate my way through Stockholm's fine dining establishments, and they all - without exception - not only used but lauded the innovation. Thanks to Lamprecht I could try the 97 Gaja Costa Russi, the 95 La Landonne and the 90 DRC Echézeaux, all in sublime form.

Greetings from Sweden / Fredrik L


Interesting! For health reasons we have reduced our wine consumption and no longer easily get through a bottle per day. I was on the verge of investing in a Coravin when there appeared a thread on another site in which a surprising number of people expressed disappointment with Coravin especially for the purpose I have in mind, namely preserving mature wines for several days after first opening. Fearing that it would join a WineSave canister in a drawer of disappointing and hence unused devices, I shied away from this €299 purchase.

I know that wine bars and some restaurants express satisfaction with professionally sized Coravin type devices but I have been inclined put that down to quick turnover.

My solution at present -
- As Robin says, opened younger wines hold up reasonably well in most cases for three to four days in the fridge and I have had some which have even improved during that time.
- Older wines, i.e. 10 years+, still get drunk in one sitting. Aesthetically usually no hardship at all :D :D .
Health-wise? :?
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Re: Leftover wine?

by Victorwine » Sat Apr 01, 2017 2:53 pm

Both Robin and Tim alluded to the idea that “left-over wine” doesn’t really exist. Jay McInerney wrote something very interesting in his book “Juice: Vinous Veritas” –“Heraclitus tells us you can never step into the same river twice, “for other waters are flowing on to you”. And likewise, it seems to me, you can never drink the same wine twice”

Salute
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Ken Schechet

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Re: Leftover wine?

by Ken Schechet » Mon Apr 03, 2017 12:06 am

Robin, you may be interested in this article by my friend Mark Spivak on this topic:

http://www.eatdrinkjourney.com/leftover-wine.html
Ken
Lord, give me coffee to change the things I can change, and wine to accept the things I can't.
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Re: Leftover wine?

by Tim York » Mon Apr 03, 2017 3:18 am

Ken Schechet wrote:Robin, you may be interested in this article by my friend Mark Spivak on this topic:

http://www.eatdrinkjourney.com/leftover-wine.html


Re that article's comments on Gas, I bought an Argon gas canister called WineSave but quickly discarded it after finding that, having used it, half-full bottles of 10+ year old wine still tasted unacceptably, to me, oxidised the next day. I concluded that, during the time it took to drink half the bottle's contents, the wine had ingested enough oxygen to get the oxidation process going. Decanting half the bottle and immediately sealing up the remainder with the gas made no decisive improvement.

The device languishes unused in a drawer.
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Paul Winalski

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Re: Leftover wine?

by Paul Winalski » Tue Apr 04, 2017 12:53 pm

I've used a nitrogen gas dispensing system for decades. Provided that you purge the ullage space after removing the cork before securing the stopper/dispenser in the bottle, the wine will keep for weeks. As you point out, the drawback is the initial investment cost. The system I have works off of commercial nitrogen cylinders. Once you pay for one cylinder, you can swap it at a welding supply shop for about $20, and it lasts for many months before it needs replacement. After the initial investment in the first cylinder, it's much cheaper than the small nitrogen or argon bottles they sell in the wine trade.

Another drawback, of course, it that you can't decant the wine.

-Paul W.

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