This is a dilemma we have all faced as wine drinkers. We come home from work and decide to have 1 or 2 glasses of wine to relax. In my case, I generally fall asleep after the second glass as my day starts at 4:30 AM. Now you have this wine that you opened and need to decide what to do with it. You don’t want to pour it down the sink as that is a sin. Some wines such as big Cabs, young Bordeaux’s or some Chiantis from Spain can survive another day after being open and some actually taste better. However, by popping the cork and allowing the wine to come in contact with oxygen for an extended amount of time is no different than decanting the wine. This will soften the tannins and make the wines actually taste better the next day in some cases. I am sure many of you have witnessed this on your own. But popping the cork on delicate wines such as light Burgundies and Pinots will not taste the same the following day. These are the wines that require a process to preserve them. In this article I want to look at the various options to preserve the wine for 1-2 days with minimal effect on the wine.
Most of us are familiar with the benefits of refrigerating food or drink products to preserve them. If you remember your high school chemistry in order to accelerate chemical reactions you must heat the solution. If you want to slow down a reaction you must cool the solution. The same is true with wine, refrigeration will slow down or prevent acetic bacteria from turning the wine into vinegar.
Therefore, with refrigeration we can slow the chemical processes of the wine and keep it from spoiling. But there is still another factor that has an influence on wine that we must stop or control and that is oxidation. This is a heavy hitter in ruining a wine. Placing wine into the refrigerator prevents wine from spoiling, but it creates another problem as oxygen is temperature dependant. In simple terms, oxygen is more soluble in a wine that is chilled. The wine will also hold more oxygen in solution if it is cold. As an example, if a wine is cooled from 68 degrees Fahrenheit to 32 degrees Fahrenheit the percentage of oxygen in solution will double.
A solution to this new problem is to reduce the surface area over the wine (less available oxygen). This can be accomplished by transferring the wine from the standard 750 ml bottle into a 375 ml wine bottle (splits). The smaller the area above the wine, the less oxygen for the wine to absorb when or if you refrigerate it.
Another method is to use a vacuum pump that pulls a vacuum on the bottle which theoretically should reduce the percentage of oxygen in the bottle. I and many of my friends use this approach. One could also use nitrogen or other inert gas to displace the oxygen from the remaining area above the wine. There have been some people that say the vacuum system affects the aromas of the wine. From a scientific view, once you pull a vacuum on a bottle it can cause some gasses such as carbon dioxide to come out of solution. If these gasses carry some of the more volatile aromatics of the wine with it, I could see that this could be possible. This is something that may need to be tried to see if the effect is noticeable or not.
In conclusion, there are methods available for preserving wine. For this author, I am looking for a few 375 ml bottles with the thought that if the wine fills the bottle to the very top (best case), I will cork it and store it in a cool place. If it does not fill the bottle completely, I will use a vacuum pump to remove as much oxygen as possible, then store in a cool place. Refrigerating the wine after transferring the wine to a 375 ml bottle may be the best, but I would want to drink it once I got home from work the following day and would not be patient enough to allow it to warm up to cellar temperature. The warming process cannot be rushed as heating will destroy the wine.