Wine Talk

Snooth User: Cheap Wine Critic

Taste without Waste: Store Your Leftover Wine in Quarter Bottles

Posted by Cheap Wine Critic, Jul 11, 2011.

For those of you fortunate enough to have a partner-in-wine, storing leftover wine may not be an issue, since a 750ml bottle divides nicely between two people. For those of you drinking solo, on the other hand, the 750ml bottle format presents a nagging problem of preserving leftover wine, especially if you want to sample and compare different bottles in one sitting.

The problem with storing leftover wine hinges on preventing excessive oxygen exposure, which causes chemical reactions that ultimately turn good wine into vinegar. The average consumer has three basic options for resolving the leftover wine storage problem: (1) rubber-stopper, vacuum pump systems like the Vacu Vin, (2) preservation sprays, and (3) transferring leftover wine into smaller bottles. Based on personal experience (and a lack thereof in case 2), I've come to favor the third method of storing leftover wine, and I'll explain why below as well as suggest a cheap and versatile set of small bottles in which to store your leftover wine.

Rubber-stopper, vacuum pump systems like the Vacu Vin work, in principle, by siphoning oxygen from the bottle and creating a vacuum. I say "in principle" because studies (and personal experience) have found that these devices do not create or sustain a true vacuum in the bottle. The Vacu Vin uses a pump that clicks when a vacuum is reached, but I've noticed that the day after storing leftover wine with the Vacu Vin, it takes a few more pumps before you get a click again. More importantly, on tasting wine stored using the Vacu Vin, I found that it only lasts two or three days (depending on the wine) before going bad, which is not much better than simply recorking the bottle.

 

Preservation sprays work by replacing the oxygen in the bottle with an inert gas like nitrogen. Though I've read that they are more effective than vacuum pump systems, I haven't had any experience with preservation sprays. Personally, I don't like the idea of buying a wine storage system that runs out every so often and needs to be replaced, which brings us to the third method.

 

Transferring leftover wine into smaller bottles allows some air into the neck of the bottle but less than the amount left in half a 750ml bottle. I was initially skeptical of this method, since some oxygen remains in the smaller bottle and since funneling wine from one bottle into another further exposes it to oxygen. However, experience has convinced me that this is a great method for preserving leftover wine - at least on the short term. To compare this method of storage with the vacuum pump method, I did a little experiment. I stored half a bottle of leftover Cabernet in the original 750ml bottle sealed with the Vacu Vin and the other half in a smaller bottle filled up to the neck, also using the Vacu Vin. Five or six days later, I did a side-by-side comparison, and the wine stored in the 750ml bottle had deteriorated significantly, while the wine stored in the smaller bottle tasted just fine. Since then, I've stored leftover wine in small bottles for upwards of ten days, and the wine consistently tasted fresh as the day I first uncorked it, even when I just used a screw cap instead of the Vacu Vin.

(Image courtesy Snooth member Jerad Harski)

 

Half bottles or quarter bottles? Several wine bloggers have recommended using half bottles (375ml) to store leftover wine, but if you want to drink more than two glasses from the original bottle, you're still left with the problem of not being able to fill the half bottle up to the neck. Since I typically drink more than half a bottle in one sitting - but less than a full bottle - I've started using quarter bottles (187.5ml) to store my leftover wine. Several wine companies, including Black Swan, sell four packs of quarter bottles on the cheap ($10), and these little bottles allow you to juggle several wines for weeks at a time without having to purchase preservation sprays or store them in the fridge between sessions. Quarter bottles are an ideal means of preservation for solo drinkers and for those interested in tasting without wasting.

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Replies

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Jul 11, 2011.

Way overthinking this, although the 1/4 bottles of nice Cab were a good perk for one of our babysitters without putting the kids at risk.  Since a VacuVin creates a near-vacuum, whether it's a half or quarter bottle is pretty much irrelevant.  Refrigerating vs. not is probably more important.

News flash: Wine often tastes better on the second day, and, in any case, wine and children are a lot less fragile than people often seem to think.  So the VV vacuum is less than perfect.  So is a cork.

Wait, did the original poster have a connection to a seller of half bottles, like, maybe, Black Swan?  Is the idea that I should buy their wine for the small bottle? 

Okay, who keeps various sized bottles around for storing leftover wine? I actually am interested in that answer.

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Reply by Stephen Harvey, Jul 12, 2011.

Leftover wine in our house is a rare as restraint and integrity in NBA player salary negotiations

The only 1/4 bottles we buy are Champagne/Sparkling

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Reply by JonDerry, Jul 12, 2011.

I'm often a solo drinker during the week, and will have to give the 1/2 or 1/4 bottles a shot if I know i'm not going to drink the next day, which is actually a recurring reality for me.

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Reply by dmcker, Jul 12, 2011.

Any wine leftover after the second day (or in certain wine's cases the third) goes into cooking (or if it's around another day or so too long, into the vinegar cask). Not many bottles get to a third or fourth day, even when I'm busy with work and coming home late when its just me there. Somehow seem to use up every drop quite frugally, especially since I cook a lot. Or is it my Scots background?

Have used all of the methods above, but never have seen the need for inert gas, though I did test a bottle storage method utilizing it over a several year period (evey bottle in an airtight plastic sleeve. Oxygen evacuated, inert gas inserted. Lay down or even stand up for those years and the wine ages much more slowly). Was particularly good for very old bottles.

And Fox I, too, had wondered about Swan sponsorship of the OP....

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Reply by Cheap Wine Critic, Jul 13, 2011.

@Foxall, I agree that some wines taste significantly better a day or two after opening - even cheap wines like the Smoking Loon Shiraz or Concannon Select Petit Sirah - but when wine goes bad, it's downright undrinkable!

Not sure I'd agree with the "near vacuum" claim. I've only been experimenting with storing leftover wine for a few months, so it's possible that differences between the individual wines I've stored matter more than the relative amount of oxygen to which they're exposed, but thusfar, I've found small bottles way more effective in keeping over-oxidization at bay than the Vacu Vin.

Refrigerating is fine if you have the luxury of waiting three hours before drinking. Personally, when I want to drink, I want to drink!

Who Keeps various sized bottles around to store leftover wine? I agree that storage space is an issue for most people, but dude, we're talking less than a six pack of beer worth of space here.

Finally, just for the record, I have absolutely no connection to Black Swan. In fact, I gave their wine a pretty bad review on Snooth. You could probably find similar sized bottles elsewhere, and several wine companies sell wine in the quarter bottle. I just happened to buy the Black Swan because I prefer cheap Shiraz to cheap white wine. Thanks for the feedback!

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Reply by Eric Guido, Jul 13, 2011.

I actually keep multiple bottles around for this reason. 1/4, 1/2 and these awesome apothecary bottles that hold about 2/3 of a wine bottle.  I find the apothecary bottles to be the best for my consumption tastes.  After I've decided what i want to use from a bottle, I rebottle, cork, wrap with a tight piece of cellophane and put the bottle in the fridge.  This method has kept wines fresh for up to four days for me.  Sometimes they are used for cooking, but more often to check in on the wine after a day or two of being opened.  

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Jul 14, 2011.

VacuVin works for me, at least for a couple days, and I hardly ever have a bottle left over longer than that.  In which case, what's the rush?  Put it in the refrigerator--doesn't take that long to rewarm when the volume is pretty low, especially if you pour a first glass--the backflow of warmer air does a bit, then you hold the glass in your hands for a bit. The topic of leftover wine is probably not one I need to opine on too much, though. You should also check your VV stoppers, as I have had some that did not last very long before developing significant problems holding the seal.  I also use the old kind that don't click and trust my experience pressurizing and applying vacuum to things over the years to go by feel.

Thanks for clearing up the non-connection to Black Swan--I could have researched the review, and next time will do so before raising that concern. 

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Reply by Stephen Harvey, Jul 14, 2011.

Sadly, Black Swan is Australian and sometimes made by a client!  But lots of Americans seem to want to drink it?

Actually I think it is a Gallo label and they source it from whoever can supply.

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Reply by Cheap Wine Critic, Jul 15, 2011.

@Foxall, fair enough about the storage issue, and good advice. I'll definitely compare my Vacu Vin plugs to see if any might be defective.

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Reply by 1 jayjay, Jul 17, 2011.

Sorry but if i open a bottle to taste , once tasted the rest is drank

i could not find room to store all the 1/4 bottles

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Reply by Mr Dolce, Jul 21, 2011.

I recently tested the theory of flavor quality with a 750ml bottle and 375ml bottle of the same exact wine.  Personally, I felt the texture, mouthfeel, and overall quality of the wine in the 375ml exceeded that of the 750ml bottle. 

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Reply by dmcker, Jul 21, 2011.

Lots of variables. Were they stored the same way, procured from the same source? One offs in tests don't give you reliable results. Could even be bottling issues before storage factors. Perhaps a problem cork. Etc.

I've had dozens of bottles of both 750s and 375s and almost universally there was a difference, not in the favor of the 375s. Try some magnums of the same wine. Had hundreds of magnums of the same wine vs 750s and again the smaller bottle loses out....

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Reply by Stephen Harvey, Jul 22, 2011.

Dmcker - as I think you have correctly pointed out in a number of past posts, wine ages much longer and probably more consistently in the larger format bottles.

I have read many articles that strongly support that view and in reagrds to Mr Dolce's experience I suspect that could have been one of those times the smaller bottle was in better condition

My experience is that smaller format bottles ultimately deliver a lesser wine experience overall

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Reply by kristyreece, Jul 22, 2011.

Has anyone tried the Skybar System for preserving wine?  It is sold via William Sonoma (may be sold elsewhere).  Check out the description from the website below.  Thoughts?  I was going to ask Santa for this one ;)  I know it is expensive ($400) but I am a solo wine drinker and hate throwing out wine...

The ultimate accessory for the wine enthusiast, the Skybar wine system is designed to chill, pour and preserve favorite vintages. This sophisticated unit is perfect for both entertaining and everyday enjoyment, showcasing an open bottle of wine in its impressive backlit chamber and preserving it for up to ten days.

  • Designed to chill, pour and preserve one bottle of wine.
  • Wine is chilled and maintained at its ideal serving temperature.
  • Select the wine varietal from 15 preprogrammed options, or adjust the chamber’s temperature to your own preference manually.
  • With the press of a button, the pouring spout smoothly dispenses one glass at a time, so guests can easily help themselves.
  • Vacuum technology preserves your open bottle of wine for up to ten days.

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Reply by dmcker, Jul 24, 2011.

Looks like a fancy bit of machinery, but the one I saw only holds a max of 3 bottles and takes a lot of counter space. Vacuuvin and inert gas displacement systems can do the same thing leaving you more space and more cash, though of course without a certain type of 'wow factor' for some people.

Hate to say it, but it seems a little gimmicky, though who am I to prevent someone from trying to make an honest buck?

How long does it take you to go through a bottle?

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Reply by gregt, Jul 24, 2011.

I expect it's like those systems in stores? If it's a gift, might be nice.  For me, as I've posted elsewhere, if I know I'm not going to kill a bottle I immediately pour into a 1/2 bottle, stopper it, and put in the fridge. I have open bottles every week and that seems to work.  And again, it's the temp more than the sealing that matters.  I never keep wine at room temp under any circumstances and out of the fridge is not 3 hours.  More like 20 minutes.

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Reply by kristyreece, Jul 25, 2011.

Thanks for the feedback dmcker and GregT.  dmcker - It can take me up to 8 days to finish a bottle.  As I usually drink reds, I guess I could store the red in the fridge before opening and let it come to proper serving temp in the glass so that the wine in the bottle is as undisturbed as possible...

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Reply by dmcker, Jul 25, 2011.

Kristy, 8 days for one bottle of wines is seriously pushing the envelope, regardless of the storage system.

What would it take for you to drink bottles more quickly? That's not even one glass a day...

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Reply by kristyreece, Jul 25, 2011.

Dmcker - I train for kettlebell competitions and have intense morning workouts three days a week.  I have to plan my wine consumption so that it doesn't impede my performance.  I also workout every evening.  In addition I work a full time job which means that sometimes I may go a week before I have the time to relax and enjoy a half or full glass.  So I open a bottle on Saturday and may not get back to it until the next Saturday. Thus my delimma.

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Reply by dmcker, Jul 25, 2011.

Understood. And good luck on your competitions. I've never worked out with those cannonballs but have heard good things from a couple of friends who do.

One option might be to try a few 375ml bottles of wine and see how that goes....

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