The best ways to keep wine after opening a bottle
If you've been following my blogposts on wine storage, you'll know that too much exposure to air is not good for wine. So what to do when you want just one or two glasses of wine from a bottle? How do you keep wine fresh after you have opened a bottle? After all, with a nod to health advice, we are all keeping an eye on our alcohol intake. Or perhaps you are a white wine drinker and your drinking partner prefers red. Or maybe you want to compare one wine with another or test a little of that special bottle of wine in your wine rack to see if it is ready to drink. So, with this in mind when you just want to pour one or two glasses of wine from a bottle, how can you make sure you don’t waste the wine that’s left and keep it in a drinkable state?
Signs that your wine is no longer fit for drinking
A little oxygen can be good for wine helping its aromas and flavours develop when in barrel, in the bottle and even in your glass as you can read about in my blogpost on decanting. But when wines are over-exposed to oxygen, they spoil. The process is accelerated as soon as you open the bottle and it can only take a few hours for some wines to become undrinkable - we've all poured a glass from the bottle we opened yesterday and noticed a marked deterioration in the wine - although usually it will take a few days. Older wines will usually deteriorate more quickly so be especially careful if you have a prized wine that you been keeping for years before drinking.
The colour of wine alters as the wine oxidises. White wines and rosé will go darker with exposure to oxygen, becoming deep gold in the case of whites or amber in the case of rosés, both moving to brown shades in extreme cases. When past their best red wines will look tawny or brick-coloured.
The taste of an over-exposed wine will be different from when you first opened the bottle. Red wines may develop cooked fruit flavours initially but all over-oxidised wines lose their fruit flavours and aromas or taste bitter. Eventually the flavours fall flat and the wine loses all its complexity and personality. At its most extreme spoiled wine will taste and smell of vinegar.
Once a wine is oxidised, there is nothing that can be done to revive it – don’t be tempted to drink it or use it for cooking.
Tips & gadgets for keeping still & sparkling wine
If you know you are going to finish the bottle in one go there’s no problem but if you are not then you need to find a way to keep your wine as fresh as when you first opened the bottle.
If you have only a small amount of wine left and it’s not special enough to keep to drink you could pour it into an ice-cube tray and freeze it to use in cooking at a later date – but I would recommend for up to 3 months only.
If you have a couple of glasses or more left over however…
The best way to keep Champagne & sparkling wines
It is an old wives’ tale that a silver spoon in the neck of the bottle will keep your champagne or sparkling wine bubbly after opening a bottle. What is most important is keeping the wine cold so you can keep it in the fridge unstoppered – but it will only keep fizzy and unspoilt up to a point, one or two days at most.
I prefer to use a stopper designed for the purpose like the plastic stopper pictured which I find keeps the bubbles longer than those clunky metal stoppers which never quite seem to grip the neck of the bottle sufficiently. These tight-fitting stoppers are not always easy to find - some champagne houses sell or give them away but after breaking mine recently, after much searching I found this one on Amazon. Even with a good stopper I wouldn’t keep sparkling wine for longer than 3 or 4 days.
The best way to keep still wines
Still white wines and rosés should be kept in the fridge with some sort of seal or stopper; red wines can be kept in a cool cupboard also with a stopper but putting them in the fridge will slow down the deterioration though you will need to remember to take the red wine out of the fridge an hour or so before drinking in order for it to get to room temperature. Decent still wines will last up to about 5-7 days if re-sealed and stored in this way. Older wines however are best consumed over a couple of days as they deteriorate more quickly.
You can stick the cork back in the bottle – as long as it has not shrunk too much – or use a bottle’s original screwcap or a tight-fitting stopper to stop too much air making contact with the wine.
But my top tip is to invest (usually less than £10) in a wine pump. My newsletter subscribers are already aware how much I love this product. With many wines open for testing and tasting in the Wines With Attitude household, my wine pump sees frequent use. VacuVin is the best known brand but there are many including supermarket own brands.
The gadget comes with rubber stoppers which you put into the top of the bottle and then on placing the gadget over the stopper you effectively pump out the excess air from the bottle. Put one of the rubber stoppers in the top of the wine bottle; place the gadget on top and pump until you hear a distinct 'glass on glass' clink so that you get rid of as much air as possible. The more wine you have had from the bottle, the more you will need to pump.
Advantages of a wine pump:
+++ they are inexpensive (though obviously not less than the original cork or screwcap)
+++ they are very widely available as are extra stoppers
+++ they are easy to use but don't forget to keep pumping until you hear the clink and you may want to place a cloth under the bottle to stop it sliding about while you pump
+++ they can be used for wine bottles sealed with a cork or with a screwcap
+++ they will keep most wines fresh for up to a week
Disadvantages of a wine pump:
--- they are not a long-term solution; they will not keep a wine fresh for longer than a week
--- they are considered by some to remove many of the wine's aromas though I haven’t noticed this
--- they are unsuitable for sparkling wine and champagne
--- they are unsuitable for more fragile, older wines. So for your treasured wines, you may want to look at a gas-based preserver which relies on the use of inert gases to keep the wine fresh, as covered in another of my blogposts.
Of course no gadget will save a poorly made wine – or a wine that is already spoiled. But it’s good to know that you can avoid wasting that leftover wine.
All products tested were bought by me and the views expressed are my personal views; I am not being paid or incentivised by any of the manufacturers.
Some of my comments on keeping wine were quoted in HuffPost UK’s article 4 Simple Hacks For Making Your Wine Last Longer by Natasha Hinde on 13/05/2021
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Lindsay Cornelissen DipWSET is passionate about good quality wine and set up Wines With Attitude to share that passion with other wine lovers.