A review of three different wine saving systems

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If you've been following my blogs 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 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 just want to test a little of that special bottle of wine in your wine rack to see if it is ready to drink.

You can always just stick the cork back in the bottle or use a stopper after opening the bottle but this will still allow too much air to make contact with the wine - which means that the rest of the bottle is wasted. We've all poured a glass from the bottle we opened yesterday and noticed a marked deterioration in the wine. With this in mind when you just want to pour one or two glasses of wine from a bottle, how can you best keep your wine in a drinkable state?

There are various wine preservation products on the market designed to keep your wine fresh after the bottle has been opened. I tried and tested three products, each the best known of their type. They are by no means the only ones available in the market but they are all the most popular ones and easy to get hold of. All the 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.


Wine Pumps

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.

Vacu Vin is probably 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.


Vacu Vin & other pump systems

Put one of the rubber stoppers in the top of the wine bottle; place the Vacu Vin 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.


Vacu vin wine saver for keeping wine once open.jpg

On the plus side:

+++ Inexpensive (less than a tenner for a pump and a couple of stoppers)

+++ Very widely available as are extra stoppers

+++ 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

+++ Can be used for wine bottles sealed with a cork or with a screwcap

+++ Keeps most wines fresh for up to a week


On the negative side:

--- Not a long-term solution; they will not keep a wine fresh for longer than a week

--- Considered by some to remove many of the wine's aromas

--- Unsuitable for sparkling wine and champagne

--- Unsuitable for more fragile, older wines. So for your treasured wines, you may want to look at a gas-based preserver.


Gas-based wine preservers

There are two types of gas-based preservers both of which rely on the use of inert gases to keep the wine fresh. Essentially inert gas which is heavier than air - flavourless, odourless and non-toxic - settles on top of the remaining wine in the bottle sealing it from any contact with air in the bottle. How long the wine keeps depends on a number of factors including the gas or gases used, how long the bottle is left open and the general health of the wine to start with.

Gas spray canisters, the best known of which is probably WineSave Pro, are the first type and are used after the cork has been removed from the bottle. The second type has a long needle used to puncture the cork whilst in situ and the most popular is Coravin. With both systems pure argon is considered the best gas to use but it is more expensive; some use a cheaper but more inefficient blend of gases.


Winesave Pro & other gas canister systemswinesave pro for preserving wine once you have opened a bottle.jpg

After removing the canister from the sealed tube in which it is packaged, attach the small rubber hose provided to the nozzle of the canister. Place the end of the hose inside the wine bottle not less than 4cm above the wine and press the top of the  nozzle for one second. Place a stopper or cork into the top of the bottle.

 On the plus side:

+++ I can't vouch for other brands but Winesave Pro uses pure food-grade argon and there is very efficient use of the gas as only a thin layer needs to go over the wine

+++ Easy to buy online though not as widely available as wine pumps

+++ Easy to use though some may find the rubber hose that needs to be fitted to the nozzle before use a little fiddly

+++ Suitable for use with sparkling wines and champagne

+++ Can be used for wine bottles sealed with corks or screwcaps

+++ Keeps most wines fresh for longer than a wine pump, certainly weeks and almost certainly months

+++ Attractive packaging, admittedly not the most important factor, though the tube that it comes in is a little flimsy

+++ Has many advocates in the wine trade


On the negative side:

--- May seem relatively expensive (priced in the UK currently at £34.99 but on offer at a lower price from time to time) but actually when you consider the 150 applications per canister that the manufacturers claim, it's not too bad at all

--- You may feel a slight sense of cynicism as you hold the very light canister in your hand and wonder what on earth you have paid for - argon is very light.

--- There is no information on how long the wine can be kept. The manufacturers say that there are too many variables to be able to be specific...

--- wines must be stored upright after use to keep the argon "seal" in place


Coravin & other needle-based systems

Coravin.jpgOnce the argon capsule has been twisted onto the gadget squeeze clamps that hold the neck of the bottle so that the point of the needle is on top of the foil. Press the trigger on the gadget once to get rid of any wine or air, then press the handle down fully so that the needle is fully inserted into the cork. Lift the bottle and tilt ready to pour the wine. Then press and release the trigger as required to be able to pour the wine.

On the plus side:

+++ Suitable for all still wines including more fragile, older wines

+++ I can't vouch for other brands but Coravin uses pure argon

+++ Has entertainment value - the first time you use it or show it to friends

+++ Has many advocates in the wine trade


On the negative side:

--- Expensive at a minimum of £200 for the basic model and £24 for 3 argon capsules, each of which needs replacing after about 15 glasses have been poured. Use of argon is less efficient than with the Winesave Pro as all the empty part of the bottle (known as the ullage) is filled with gas in order to create enough pressure to pour  wine out. Plus needle replacements will also be required after a while.

--- Not so easy to use and quite intimidating to the uninitiated

--- Not so easy to clean

--- Not suitable for sparkling wines and champagne

--- Not suitable for wine bottles sealed with a screwcap or with a synthetic cork

--- Reportedly there is a risk of the wine bottle exploding - and Coravin now sells a neoprene bottle sleeve to hold the bottle in whilst you are using the gadget.

My conclusions on the best wine-preserving systems

Whilst I haven't been exactly scientific in my testing - and I haven't left wine for more than a couple of weeks with any of these wine preservation systems, it seems to me that each has a place: 

  • Vacuvin - for all households and fine for sealing all but your most precious bottles that you know you will polish off within a week
  • Winesave Pro - for all households for keeping all wines for a longer though unspecified term, certainly weeks and reportedly for months
  • Coravin - for testing out older and expensive wines from time to time and for keeping them for a few years longer - so for those with a cellar or for anyone who loves gadgets.

I have tucked away some bottle that have been opened with all these systems and plan to open them in a few months to see how they have fared. I will report back.

And don't forget... none of these products will save a poorly made wine!


© Wines With Attitude Limited, www.wineswithattitude.co.uk

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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.

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