How long can you keep wine once the bottle has been opened?
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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? … 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, a newer invention, 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 on our WineLovers Discussion Group forum or WineLovers Facebook page.
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There are thousands of small family wineries handcrafting extraordinary wine in quantities too limited to be found in local stores or shops. In 1990 wine club founders Bruce and Pam Boring discovered that these winemaking families were the most passionate in the wine world and that their wines were the hidden gems of wine country! Together Bruce and Pam embarked on a journey to help these artisan wineries introduce their exquisite wines to the world. Learn more.
Wine Focus: Spain for March, Australia for April
You’re welcome to join us in both conversations!
Click Wine Focus for March 2017: Wines of Spain to take part in our Spanish wine tasting and conversation. (And don’t worry if it’s already April when you get there. We’ll keep the doors open.)
To join in our discussion and tasting across the land Down Under, click Wine Focus for April 2017: Wines of Australia and bring your Australian comments, questions and tasting notes!
Today’s Tasting Reports
Poema 2014 Catalunya Red Wine ($5.99)
A blend of Garnacha, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon, this is a clear, dark reddish-purple wine with a clear garnet edge. The simple aroma is focused on raspberries and strawberries, leading into a fresh, crisp red-fruit flavor. It’s light in weight on the palate, with clean fruit flavors structured by tart, zingy acidity, soft but persistent tannic astringency, and balanced 13 percent alcohol. U.S. importer: Kobrand Corp., Purchase, N.Y. (March 24, 2017)
FOOD MATCH: The back label suggests pairing it with “full-flavored foods and spicy cuisines.” We tried it with a rich, lightly spicy roasted-vegetable and barley soup.
WHEN TO DRINK: This doesn’t strike me as a long-term ager. I’d drink it up over the next year or two while the fruit is fresh, and look for later vintages to drink next year.
My local price was a blowout sale compared with the $11 U.S. retail shown on Wine-Searcher.com, but it’s certainly a decent value in the $10 range.
Here’s an importer fact sheet on the Poema wine.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Find vendors and check prices for Poema Catalyuna Red on Wine-Searcher.com.
Alvear non-vintage Cream (sweet Oloroso) Montilla-Moriles Pedro Ximenez ($14.99)
This sweet Oloroso “cream” Sherry, a blend of dry Oloroso and sweet Pedro Ximenez wine aged in solera for at least 10 years, shows a clear, dark copper-brown color in the glass, with glints of bronze against the light. Delicious aromatics, fresh cracked walnuts and a background whiff of brown sugar. Unctuous and rich, walnut and brown-sugar flavors follow the nose in a full-bodied flavor shaped by surprisingly bright and tart lemon-squirt flavor that saves the sweet wine from cloying as it becomes more evident in the very long finish. Rich, sweet flavors cloak hefty 18 percent alcohol, typical of Sherry. U.S. importer: Cutting Edge Selections, Mariemont, Ohio; Jorge Ordonez Selections. (March 24, 2017)
FOOD MATCH: The winery calls it “a comforting winter drink” and suggests enjoying it with “sweets, desserts and coffee.” Winter’s ending here, but we enjoyed sipping it after dinner with nuts and cheese.
WHEN TO DRINK: On the one hand, it’s not an ager. On the other, it will last forever, probably without evolving much. Drink it now or drink it later, but don’t count on its value to increase with time.
My local price matches the the $15 U.S. average retail reported by Wine-Searcher.com. It’s certainly a decent buy in the middle teens, and particularly worthy at the shops tagging it in the $12-$13 range.
Click here for the producer’s fact sheet for Alvear Cream.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Look for vendors and compare prices for Alvear Cream on Wine-Searcher.com.
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