Preserving an Open Bottle

12 tips to make wine last longer


Next » 1 of 13
Preserving an Open Bottle I get this question so often that I am sort of shocked that I haven’t addressed it yet. It’s perhaps one of the best questions about wine, though its simple answer often gets obscured by marketing pitches designed to solve a problem that you probably don’t have.

Wine degrades, or oxidizes, due to the reaction between the delicate aromatic compounds in wine and oxygen. Heat speeds up these reactions. Excessive heat causes a whole slew of additional problems, but I’m making the assumption that you are careful enough not to cook your wine.

So how should you handle that bottle of wine you didn’t finish? Let’s explore your options.

Photo courtesy toddwickersty via Flickr/CC

Mentioned in this article


  • What is your opinion of opening a bottle of red wine and immediately pouring it with one of those wine pourers that introduce oxygen as you pour? Seems to make the wine immediately drinkable but does it ruin what is left in the bottle?

    Oct 11, 2011 at 12:23 PM

  • What is your suggestion for cleaning the half-bottle before using it? On a scale from "rinsing it out with cold water is enough" to "sterilizing and treating with sulfite powder is imperative," where do you come down?
    Oh, and I'm with you on the Vac-u-vin. After relying on mine for years, I finally tumbled to the fact that the saved wines tasted "blah." For a while I used a special half-bottle sized decanter, with a narrow neck and a long glass stopper that actually reached the surface of the wine. But, these days I mostly just recork and refrigerate.

    Oct 11, 2011 at 1:40 PM

  • While my methods are not "scientific," I've found the vacuum pumps work the best. While it may suck out some of the aromatics, as Mr. Piaz contends, I don't find that it does that to such a drastic extent. I've opened 2 bottles of the same wine (a 2005 Dashe Zinfandel) and stoppered one with the Vacu-Vin, and the other with just a cork, then had only a half pour of each night until the bottles were gone. No contest. The bottle with the vacuum lasted well over a week, while the other changed dramatically. While the re-corked wine was OK the second day, it did indeed go "downhill fast" after that. I did also find that the oxygen exposure present from the pours actually helped the vacuum bottle. It actually got better each day, only "going downhill" near the end. Of course I have to admit, I don't normally let an open bottle go for so long as to meet it's back side.

    Oct 11, 2011 at 2:08 PM

  • A side note. The Vacu Vin doesn't work so well with sparkling wine or screw-top bottles. The screw tops have a slightly wider diameter than a traditional cork bottle, and I just have not found any good way to keep sparkling wine sparkling. So I just buy more Prosecco and use it to make Spritzes.

    Oct 11, 2011 at 2:13 PM

  • I use the Preservino (sp?) which is a small-scale Argon injector system which lays a blanket of gas over the surface area of the wine; it seems to work very well. not too expensive, either, as you only need a 2 - 3 second blast of gas per bottle.

    Oct 11, 2011 at 2:17 PM

  • Like you, as I am learning about wine's specifically reds, I find that I prefer to finish the entire bottle. Why take a chance on ruining a good wine. If not it will be ok the following evening for dinner.....!!!

    Oct 11, 2011 at 2:23 PM

  • I just put a clean cork in it, put it in our 57F cellar, and drink it within two to three days.

    Oct 11, 2011 at 3:21 PM

  • Snooth User: tking535
    364227 3

    Touche Gregory! Just finish the damn bottle!! Cheers! Great piece!!!!

    Oct 11, 2011 at 3:35 PM

  • Snooth User: superalex
    632328 0

    Mr Gregory, I always follow your last advise and my evening ends uo very well!!!! Thanks a lot for your advices.

    Alessandro from Rome, Italy

    Oct 11, 2011 at 3:56 PM

  • Snooth User: superalex
    632328 0

    Gregory, lovely advise, this is what I always do and my evening ends up very well!!!! Thank you for your articles

    Alessandrio from Rome, Italy

    Oct 11, 2011 at 3:57 PM

  • I'm all for finishing the bottle, but when you own a restaurant and have potentially 12 open bottles of red wine each night, all tips are welcome!!

    Oct 11, 2011 at 4:56 PM

  • Snooth User: Lucijano
    876217 22

    I have a good experience in situation having more bottles opened at home, small game of making cuvee's, filling up full bottles with similar wine or interesting combinations...

    For the restaurant... isn't that too extravagant to offer 12 wines @glass?

    Oct 11, 2011 at 5:03 PM

  • Snooth User: skalywag
    518322 53

    I have found that BOX wines work very well in this regard. They pull their own vacuum thus preventing the introduction of Oxygen. Also, there seems to be a bonus in the volume amount of wind in boxes.

    Oct 11, 2011 at 6:05 PM

  • Snooth User: Lats
    382208 14

    I think you are under-selling the vacuum technique. I'm a chemist and while it may not be perfect, this method and storage at a cool temperature (reds) or the refrigerator (whites) seem to work fine for most wines.

    Oct 11, 2011 at 6:13 PM

  • I have to say that i have been using this particular practice to save those rare bottles that need to be recorked and revisited in a day or two. Find the biggest cork that will fit in the bottle, then put it in the fridge. I find that most of my reds will last an additional 4-5 days, which is an absolute shocker the first time I did it. But as long as you typically drink high quality wine, they will usually get better after a day, but 4-5? Yup. I was sceptical too, but this particullar wine held up nicely. And as far as whites are concerned, same process, but give it another day. It's certainly a rarity that any open bottle lasts that long in my house, but on the rare occasion, I find that recorking and refridgeration works the best for me. Only because I get a liyyle anxious about serving a properly decanted wine for my dinner parties, sometimes I'm left with that extra bottle that needs to be shelved for another day or two. But no science is perfect, so good luck with this method if you ever need to employ it. Cheers!

    Oct 11, 2011 at 7:10 PM

  • Snooth User: ctjones1
    946580 129

    I put a half bottle of wine in the frig. The next day I take it out and pour it into a wine glass and put it the microwave for ten seconds and it brings the wine back to room temperature and it tastes very good.

    Oct 11, 2011 at 9:44 PM

  • Snooth User: SergioL
    509842 24

    What about breathing air into the bottle, corking up, and colling down the bottle? The trick of breathing into the bottle is that the air you breath out is rich in CO2 but not oxygen. As CO2 is heavier than Oxygen it doesn't matter how much wine, CO2 and oxygen is left in the bottle, as the oxygen will always be apart from the wine because while wine is the heaviest of the three, oxygen is the lightest one. I do this, cork it up and put the wine in the fridge. I have tasted 4 to 7 days old wines, and they taste good enough.

    Oct 11, 2011 at 10:13 PM

  • I subscribe to the small bottle method. I keep a few 375ml and even 187ml bottles around (screwcaps make it easier too). I may not be as proactive as transferring right after opening all the time, but I always pour the remainder into smaller bottles and send them to the fridge. I also have a vacuum thing but it didn't seem to be as good. After reading this article, I've started considering the other effects of vacuum. If you reduced the air pressure inside the bottle, that would cause the wine to actually vaporise faster, along with its aroma presumably, in order to equalise the pressure in the bottle.

    Anyway, I guess I'm not always drinking/leaving wine that's worthy enough to put through all this, but the thought of not doing anything just doesn't work for me.

    I do have a question. The act of pouring from the big bottle to the small bottle causes ALL the wine to come into contact with air for a brief moment. I wonder how much impact that actually has on the chemical reaction.

    Oct 11, 2011 at 11:26 PM

  • If a (attractive) plastic "wine bag" was made available, the wine could first be transferred into the bag with virtually no introduction of air. A fitting that couples the bag to the bottle could be provided. Then, as wine is poured, the bag will accordingly collapse, keeping all air out. The bag could could be provided with a bag holder. I envision quite an attractive set up. Rabbit, are you reading this?

    Oct 12, 2011 at 7:43 AM

  • Snooth User: nikiddawg
    944240 10

    I agree with theshepher....pouring from the big bottle to the half bottle introduces oxygen into ALL of the wine during the transferring process thus doing precisely that which you are trying to avoid. It would seem that the Vacu-vin (which I use) is one of the best alternatives to finishing the bottle in one sitting.

    Oct 12, 2011 at 10:44 AM

  • I have tried wine with all these methods. I have a vaccuum system I rarely use because quite honestly, I am with Gregory! The best is just to finish the damn bottle!!!! Hahaha. That being said, on the rare occassion it does not happen, recorking and refridgeration work great but I have never tested that beyond day two! I think it's asking alot to assume an open bottle may last more than two days at my house anyway. BTW- I am not sure that you really need to microwave to room temp. Just take it out, pour and wait a few minutes. It will soon be drinking temp.~Cheers to all! Adriana

    Oct 12, 2011 at 11:00 AM

  • Nice idea gordonbremer! Wine in a box is back! So why not get our Opus One delivered in a box? OK, I know I'm being facetious, but what about the wine in box Greg? There's a bag with a spout inside the box after all... that should keep the oxygen out.

    Oct 12, 2011 at 12:33 PM

  • Boxed wines preserve their taste indefinitely. At issue here is the starting point. I've asked about decent boxed wines- and by decent I mean roughly equivalent to $8-10 / bottle, but it seems there are few clear winners and many many losers. It is convenient for one or two glasses a week; not having to deal with decanting, pumping (and potential leaks or vacuum failures). Until the bag is almost empty and starts sucking air, there's no jostling, exposure to air, surface areas issues, etc.

    Oct 12, 2011 at 9:26 PM

  • Snooth User: rlapolla
    610235 52

    My best result is with the metrokane stopper with the built in vacuum guage. it fits snugly into neck of bottle (not as well with screw tops) and you pump it down until the needle is all the way to the left (the red zone) indicating a strong vacuum. Then put bottle in refrigerator. the seal doesnt leak. you can check the vacuum on the guage so you know its still evacuated. the wine tastes absolutely fine after a week, even if the level in the bottle is well down in the wide area of the botttle (surface area doesnt matter with this plug. requires a little muscle to pump but really works great.

    Oct 13, 2011 at 7:21 PM

  • Snooth User: lbpsfl
    140373 50

    I've used the half bottle and the vacu vin for years. The bottles then go to my short term cellar. I fairly strongly prefer the vacu vin, except for those wines that have a little spritz to them. It's hard not to introduce quite a bit of air during decanting, and I typically still stopper with a vacu vin. I often drink Aussies, and the new tapered VV stoppers have never been a problem. I use boxes mostly for wines that I use in cooking.

    I've kept sparklers up to 10 days with the pressure retaining stoppers. They lose most of the sparkle after 2 re-stopperings.

    I like the CO2 idea and will try it the next time.

    Oct 15, 2011 at 2:45 PM

  • I find the vacuum is the best way to preserve my red wine. Of course the bolder the wine the better chance it will retain its flavor. I usually do not let a open bottle (vacuum sealed) sit around for more then two days. Refridgerate if your not planning on drinking in a couple of days. Let it sit out for a hour to get the chill before drinking but don't unvaccum:)

    Oct 16, 2011 at 4:58 PM

  • Snooth User: Kyle Graynor
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    455797 7,460

    The half-bottle idea is great, but should I use a tall and thin half bottle, or a short and stout bottle? I would assume the thinner the bottle the better since there would be less surface area, but is that the case? Does it really matter?

    Oct 20, 2011 at 12:12 PM

  • Yes these systems really work, I have one on the shelf over my shoulder in fact, but they come at a cost. Fancy multi-bottle dispensers can range from $1000 to $10,000. There are also single bottle systems that are just a bit over $100 that work just fine.

    could you name some brands/make for the single bottle variety

    Nov 02, 2011 at 4:56 PM

  • Snooth User: eatapc
    73228 0

    I call BS on the #10 "That Sucks" section. Just did a blind test with a 2005 Brunello. Identical bottles. One glass from each poured last night, then one bottle was re-corked and put in the fridge, while the other bottle was vacuumed out and put in the fridge. Tonight I took them out, let them come to room temp, then had my wife pour a glass from each. I drank them before, with and after dinner. The wine from the "sucked" bottle had a better nose, more wood aromatics, and more complexity on the finish. Conclusion: The vacuum devices help maintain the quality of the wine.

    Nov 03, 2011 at 8:35 PM

  • A question about sucking the aromatics out with the vacuum. Aren't you only sucking out one batch of molecules, the loose ones that are in the half-empty airspace bottle at that time, but no more? Once you put the stopper in, until you open the next time, nothing escapes, so the total mass of aromatics lost is pretty small???

    I use both the vacuum for a one or 2 night layover, and I use the" half bottle decant immediately" for others. I make sure the half bottle is clean but that means nothing more than a re-rinse, of a prev. rinsed out bottle, in cold water just before use, and then store like any other bottle. I find it works for weeks and months. A few failures, but probably due to outside contamination, not oxydation.

    Jul 02, 2012 at 11:50 AM

  • I use a vacuum pump and the wine stays good for weeks.

    They are inexpensive so why bother with "tricks".

    I have this one and ordered two extra rubber 'corks'.

    Vacu Vin 3-Piece Wine Saver Pump and Stopper, White

    Sep 03, 2012 at 4:09 PM

Add a Comment

Search Articles

Best Wine Deals

See More Deals

Snooth Media Network