Leftover Wine: Don’t Toss that Open Bottle

October 15, 2009 | By | Comments (1)

Oct122009 025

Even the most dedicated wine lover can end up with a half bottle of wine at the end of the night. So should you toss it or keep it? If you can
make a small effort, just keep it. But if it’s going to sit on a warm kitchen
counter for a few days, toss it. Here’s a little science before I get to the
“how-to’s.” Wine “goes bad” once you pull the cork because of oxygen. The
second oxygen hits the wine, it starts to, well, oxidize. You can slow down the
process but you’ll never completely reverse it. That said, you can keep a
bottle for a few days without it turning to vinegar. After a week, it’s time to
toss it. (And I mean toss it; contrary to popular belief, cooking with spoiled
wine will not add flavor to your dish.)


Wine gas: Inert gas will
keep your wine fresh for days. (Inert gas is essentially pure air that contains
no oxygen, and it prevents oxidation of the wine.) The two most common brands,
Wine Life and Private Reserve, come in cans that feel empty. But really the gas
inside is lighter than air and replaces any oxygen left in the bottle with the
gas, preserving the wine. Just spray and re-cork and the wine will stay fresh
for at least a few days and up to a week (and some say up to a month). You can
find both brands in wine shops and online for around $10 a bottle; one bottle
should be good for about one hundred uses. If you want be fancy about it, there
is a “wine preservation steward” that replaces the oxygen with argon gas that
sells for around $200 and keeps wine fresh for up to three weeks.

Wine vacuum: A vacuum pump
draws out any oxygen in the bottle and seals it, preserving the wine for 2 to 3
weeks. You just place a stopper over the top and pump out the oxygen. They cost
anywhere from $10 to $50. (But a vacuum won’t work on sparkling wines.)

Half bottles: An easy and
cheap way to preserve your wine is to pour it in half bottles (375mL) and
recork or use a wine stopper. The size of the bottle eliminates excess oxygen.
Our winemaker friend swears by it. (For even fresher wine store the half bottle
in the ‘fridge; see below.)

Several winemakers I know stick recorked, half-empty
bottles of wine in the fridge, both whites and reds. It slows down the deterioration
of the wine. Just pull reds out of the fridge about an hour before you want to
finish the bottle.

Bubbly: Obviously Champagne and sparkling wine pose additional problems
given the CO2 involved (it’s impossible to preserve all those bubbles), but an
Champagne stopper will keep it
overnight. Any longer than that just cook with it; leftover
Champagne makes a great white sauce for
chicken, fish, or pork.

Screwcap: If the bottle has a screwcap instead of a cork,
you're one step ahead. A good screwcap
actually preserves the wine better than a cork ever could. So once you unscrew
that top, just screw it back on tightly (and even better, stick it in the
‘fridge) and enjoy the wine for up to a week.



  1. steven Beeson

    thanks for the tips, GG. That’ll save me some wine.
    Oh, inert gas isn’t ‘pure air’ – it’s gas that doesn’t react with wine, like helium and argon, as you mentioned. ‘Air’ is mostly nitrogen, some oxygen. Hereth ends the science lesson.

    October 25, 2009 at 6:32 pm

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