It's a deflating feeling to be sure. But it doesn't have to be this way. Here are the best tips for extending the shelf life of an opened bottle of wine to help maintain its quality, texture, and flavor, as recommended by sommelier Alex Cuper, who is the general manager and beverage director at El Che Steakhouse & Bar in Chicago.
“Wine, in my opinion, is much like a living entity—you have to look out for it because it is susceptible to certain elements that can cause it to turn, spoil, or just not be as good as it could be,” he says. So before you pour out another bottle that's gone off, follow his advice below to preserve wine like a pro.
Cork it and keep it in the fridge
“The best way, without spending any money at all, to preserve your wine after it's been opened is to put the cork back in as far down as you can push it and keep it in the refrigerator, even if it is the world's biggest full bodied cabernet,” Cuper says. “The cooler temperatures slow down the progress of the microorganisms and other factors that cause wine to turn. When wine is exposed to the sun for extended periods of time, there is a reaction that occurs creating the classic ‘wet newspaper’ smell that is not appealing to any wine drinker.
Know your wines and varietals
“Generally speaking, I have had better luck at home with full bodied red wines with higher tannin and alcohol content (cabernet sauvignon, Malbec, Barolo, etc.) and white wines with a high acidity level (riesling, sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, etc.) or preservation,” he says. “The alcohol, tannin and acidity help preserve the quality of the wine, which is why a lot of these wines can age unopened for many years."
Again, this is speaking very generally and there are many exceptions to this rule—but this is a little cheat sheet that may help on a smaller scale!
Try to finish your open bottles within 48 hours of corking
“Our rule of thumb in the restaurant is that if anything has been open longer than two days we consider it to not have the same quality anymore and open a fresh bottle,” Cuper says.
Invest in some equipment
While the refrigerator and cork method is the easiest pick and requires no additional cost, there are many other tools and gadgets that can extend the shelf-life of your wine a bit longer. (Cuper says that when he uses these at home, he's able to drink an opened bottle of wine for four or five days after corking it.)
Vacu-Vin Wine Pumps ($15)
“At El Che and at my house, we use the Vacu Vin Wine Pumps—these are small, rubber stoppers, with a pump that work to pull out as much oxygen from the bottle as possible,” Cuper says.
“It is probably the best wine preservation that you can get on the market and it is really cool," Cuper says. “Essentially the Coravin allows you to pour a glass of wine without removing the cork, therefore it never touches oxygen,” he says. It does this by piercing the cork with a long, hollow needle, allowing the wine to be poured through the little spout on the end.
There is also a small cartridge that contains a gas mixture that is meant to help preserve the wine without imparting any flavor. “In theory, this will allow the wine to last indefinitely because the cork has never been pulled,” Cuper says. Cheers to that!
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