Time in a Bottle
“Sometimes it takes my husband and me several days to drink an entire bottle of wine, sometimes longer. How long can you keep a bottle of wine open? When does it go bad?” - Kelly (Lake Oswego)
I find that I actually prefer wine a day or two after it has been opened. Once oxygen is introduced, it releases some of the subtle aroma and flavor as well as creating more approachable tannins. This is, in part, some of the same reasons we decant (emptying a wine into a different container in order to aerate), and/or let a wine age.
However, as the air and wine spend time together, oxygen eats away at the fruit components, dulling the wine in your glass. My general rule of thumb for young wines is to finish them within two days after opening.
Here are some easy ways to help preserve the life of your wine once you have opened it:
Option 1: Refrigerate it, even reds. The lower temperatures slow the chemical reactions that cause the wine to lose its fruit aromas and flavors. If you do put red wine in the refrigerator, be sure to finish it the next day. The fluctuations in temperature aren’t good for its longevity.
Option 2: Use one of the many gadgets available on the market that create a barrier between the wine and the air, lessening its negative effects. Products such as air pumps use a synthetic capsule instead of a cork, which inserts neatly into a vacuum pump. Together they effectively suck the air out of the bottle and protect the wine. You could also try a nitrogen spray product that infuses a blanket of nitrogen into the bottle creating a buffer between the oxygen and the wine. Both items are available online and are fairly inexpensive — less than $20.
Option 3: Decant into a smaller bottle. If you have a half bottle (375ml) hanging around, funnel the leftover wine from the full bottle into the half bottle and cork it, reducing the oxygen exposure.
Option 4: Invite your friends over to help you drink the wine after you open it. (I think my email address is attached to this, right?) No explanation required.
There are, however, two exceptions to the preceding tips:
1. Because of the nature of very old wine, it starts losing its complexity and structure quickly — sometimes within the hour — after the cork is pulled. I would not recommend waiting until the next day to finish it.
2. Some wines, like dessert wines and Port, can stay open longer; the high sugar and alcohol content acts as a preservative, greatly slowing down deterioration. They can stay open for several weeks to a month before you notice any negative effects.
The wine in your glass today is intended to be enjoyed within the first two days. But by using the options listed above, you can retain the quality and complexity of it without rushing through the experience.
Cheers! Jennifer Cossey
I look forward to receiving more of your questions. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to submit your questions, and I’ll see you next month!