How to Store an Opened Wine
This week we are going to talk about a very common situation in which I am sure we have all been before. What should we do with that opened bottle of wine? There are many reasons that could have led to this situation. Maybe we needed some wine for cooking, maybe we just want one glass or maybe we had a party and there are a few bottles opened. What should we do? I am for sure one of those people that hate to waste good wine or food, but at the same I want to make sure that it will still taste good if I decide to store it. There are a few easy steps to follow if you ever find yourself in this situation again, but before we get to them, let us try to understand what causes a wine to get spoiled after it has been opened. Believe it or not the answer is simple: oxygen. Oxygen is responsible for turning your wine into vinegar so the key factor to keep in mind is the amount of oxygen interacting with your wine. The process starts when you first open the bottle. All the sudden you expose the inside of the bottle to open air. The surface in contact is of course very little, but it will increase the more wine you pour out of the bottle. To understand the effect that this has on the wine, think about what happens to half of an apple left on your counter. After few hours it will start showing brown spots on the surface exposed. The timing of this process depends on the temperature of your house, but eventually it will turn the entire exposed surface to a brown color. Your half apple will get oxidized. Your wine will get oxidized in the same way, so it is important to know how to prevent this.
There are many theories, tools and strategies out there, but as always, I like to try and keep things simple because in this way we are more likely to remember them and apply them. The easiest and most effective way to preserve your wine has just two steps.
Let us analyze them in detail to understand why they are so important.
As we mentioned before the oxidation process starts when we remove the cork so the first thing to do after we have poured the desired quantity of wine, is to simply recork the bottle. This will prevent new air to get inside the bottle. A good question at this point could be: what should we use to recork our bottle? The easiest answer is again the most effective. You can use the wine cork that you have just pulled out of the bottle. Make sure to use the same side that was in contact with the wine, since the outside part could have mold (especially in old bottles) and undesired dust depending on how it was stored after bottling. If you do have a wine stopper that works too, and, in that case, you do not have to worry about mold and possible dust. I would always recommend having a couple of wine stoppers around in case the cork is in bad conditions or magically disappears (yes, corks seem to have this natural ability sometimes).
Now that we have recorked our wine preventing more oxygen to get inside the bottle, we have one more thing to do. We have to try and slow down the oxidation process. Exactly like we would do with a half apple, the best thing to do is to store your wine in the fridge. Temperature will reduce and slow down the oxidation effect and will keep our opened wine fresh for longer.
I am sure at this point all of you are wondering, how long will the wine stay good for if we follow these two steps? The answer varies depending on the type of wine and on how long it was exposed to oxygen before it was recorked of course, but as a rule of thumb it will last 3 to 5 days. There are ways to improve this number, but since all of these involve purchasing tools, I will keep them for a future article. Today instead I would like to focus on a simple free concept. Strategy.
Regardless of the situation you can always try and plan ahead on how much you are going to pour and treat the wine left in the bottle as I explained above. I know this might be difficult sometimes, but I always like to think that it is not a big deal to walk to the fridge and reopen the bottle if I underestimate my desire to drink. At the end of the day, there are approximately 5 glasses in a regular bottle of wine (750ml). If you are drinking with someone that is a bit more that 2 glasses each, which is half glass while you are cooking, one during dinner and one after. If you are wondering how pair wine with your favorite food, you should read my Wine and Food Pairing Guide and as always I will be more than happy to answer any additional question.