Make sure half-empty bottles retain quality |

Make sure half-empty bottles retain quality

SUSANNE JOHNSTONspecial to the daily
Summit Daily/Kristin Skvorc

Many regular wine drinkers find that half a bottle of wine is just perfect for their evening consumption. This is considered moderate drinking and is not harmful to an otherwise healthy liver. As a matter of fact, there are many health benefits to this level of consumption. But lacking another person to share the bottle with, what do we do with the other half? How long will it stay fresh and in the condition the wine maker intended it to be enjoyed?Once you pull the cork on a bottle of wine, the wine begins to age. Oxygen has the potential to create great harm to wine. How the wine holds up once exposed to oxygen depends on a number of factors, but the age of the wine is undoubtedly the most important. A young wine will actually benefit from exposure to air. A full bodied, ripe Australian Shiraz or a California Cabernet, either one younger than 5 years of age, will begin to oxidize the minute air touches it. This is prematurely aging the wines and helping its evolution. This can also be accomplished by decanting the wine. An older wine, however, is much more fragile, and may rapidly collapse, losing much of its character and bouquet just minutes after being opened.

Consequently, you can see that it is silly to expect an older wine to hold up longer than one night. But a younger, sturdier wine, which makes up the vast majority of most of our drinking, can hold up a couple of days with proper preservation. Refrigerating wine, either red or white, is a great first step to preserving wine for the following day. But there are a couple of steps you can take to preserve it even longer.I think the very best way to preserve wine is to reduce the air contact with the wine. A smaller container, such as a used, cleaned, half bottle (375ml) is the perfect container. Transfer whatever wine is left in the larger bottle to the smaller one and then refrigerate it. Like all foodstuffs, chemical reactions are much less rapid at cooler temperatures, so the process of oxidation that will eventually make the wine undrinkable occurs much more slowly.

Some wine lovers will argue that decanting the wine allows so much oxygen into the wine that putting it into a smaller container outweighs any benefit gained from the smaller volume of air in the half bottle. There is no evidence either way, but my personal experience has been very successful when transferring to a smaller bottle, so that is what I do.Vacuuming wine is not the best way to preserve wine, but it is easy and inexpensive. I have had both positive and negative experiences with this method. Sometimes the wine seems a bit flat the next day. I think the aromas are a bit subdued with this method. For the serious wine lover, a quick squirt of nitrogen can be employed to protect wine from oxidation. The nitrogen settles over the wine and there is no loss of volatile compounds. Some people love this method, I personally can smell the nitrogen in the first glass I have from the preserved bottle. But not everyone can and I wouldn’t put anyone off trying it.

Sparkling wine should never be decanted; this would result in losing most of the fizz. And the nitrogen is probably unnecessary, as a layer of carbon dioxide from the bubbles protects the wine. The wine will not change that much in one day by just replacing the cork and refrigerating. Many wine lovers use a pressure cap, myself included, and by judging by the amount of pressure when released I am sure it is helping preserve the wine.So, with a little care and planning, the vast majority of wines can be stored safely to be enjoyed the following day, or even a couple of days. Remember to pull red wines out of the refrigerator a couple of hours before you plan to enjoy them. The change in temperature will not hurt the wines, and for some of the younger full-body wines, a couple days to slowly age will actually enhance your drinking enjoyment.Susanne Johnston is the owner of Frisco Wine Merchant. For more information, contact her at (970) 668-3153, or at

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