Wine 101: The Freshness Factor

Between wines featured on this website and stuff I’m tasting for my Winnipeg Free Press column, I probably have more bottles of wine on the go than your typical consumer.

Typically, a bottle of wine won’t last longer than a few days at my house, so I don’t usually fret too much over how to best keep a wine fresh once the bottle is opened. But for someone who lives alone, or who doesn’t enjoy a glass (or more) per day, the struggle to keep a wine from losing its freshness or becoming increasingly oxidative can be frustrating.

Generally speaking, once a wine is opened, it’s typically best to drink it within 3-5 days (although even in that time period you’ll notice changes in freshness of fruit, acidity levels and so on). Older wines start falling apart a bit more quickly. (More on what actually happens to a wine as it deteriorates some other time.)

So what can we (or you, I suppose) do to avoid a wine’s deterioration once it has been opened?

Refrigerate. Yes, even your red wines. In the same way a fridge helps make perishable foods last longer, so too does it help extend the life of a wine. This might add a day or two to a wine’s optimal freshness. For reds, simply remove the wine from the fridge about 30-45 minutes before drinking to bring the temperature back up. Cost = nothing.

Transfer your wine into a smaller container. Instead of tossing smaller 375ml bottles of wine once they’re finished, keep the bottle and transfer leftover wine from a 750ml bottle into the smaller receptacle. The less contact with oxygen a wine has, the longer it’ll last, and a smaller bottle means less surface contact between wine and oxygen. You can use other smaller, well-washed bottles as well, although it’s a bit uglier visually (if that matters). Cost = the price of a half-bottle of wine.

Inert gases are your friend. You don’t need a chemistry degree for this one — rather, you just need to find a product such as private preserve, which pumps a mixture of (harmless) inert gases into the bottle. These gases are heavier than oxygen, and come to rest on the surface of the wine in the bottle, pushing the oxygen away from the wine and helping extend a wine’s life by days or even over a week. Cost = around $20.

Puncture and pour. The Coravin system has been at the forefront of a new-ish way to keep wine fresh. Don’t pop that cork! A hollow needle on the Coravin punctures the cork in the bottle; argon (an inert gas) goes into the bottle through the needle, then the wine comes out through that same needle. The wine comes out, the Coravin is removed, and the argon keeps the wine from going off for weeks. Cost = around $300.


Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson is the wine columnist and literary editor for the Winnipeg Free Press. He’s on Twitter and Instagram at @bensigurdson.

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