We Can Drink the Rest Tomorrow: 5 Wine Preservation Systems Tested

In the world of wine, air is the enemy. Or more specifically, oxygen is the enemy.

Let me step back a second. Air serves a very important purpose when you’re drinking wine. Most importantly, it “opens up” a wine and helps to bring out its character. When you slosh wine from a bottle into a glass, a lot of air gets mixed in. This causes those aromatic compounds to fill the glass and makes the experience of drinking a good wine all that much better. There are decanters and aerating gadgets to speed up this process, too, if swirling’s not your thing.

But once air gets to the wine, the cat is out of the bag. While it will taste fantastic for a few hours, it will then slowly lose its fruitiness, its aroma, its body, and just about everything else. Eventually the wine will oxidize due to exposure to O2 in the air, which starts a chain reaction in the wine, forming hydrogen peroxide, then acetaldehyde, neither of which you want to be drinking a lot of. Once a wine is uncorked (or once the cork starts to fail), this process begins in earnest.

So what do you do if you want to drink a single glass of wine but not throw away the other four-fifths of the bottle? You turn to a wine preservation system. There are three main tactics to arrest oxidation, and gadgetry is available for each. They are:

1. Suck the air—including the oxygen—out of the bottle, leaving a vacuum.

2. Replace the bad air with good air; some inert gas that won’t interact with wine.

3. Form a physical barrier between the wine and the air. (You can also do this by pouring the remainder of a larger bottle of wine into a half-bottle and resealing it such that no air is left between the wine and the cork.)

Which one works best? I purchased seven bottles of the same wine (a California Cabernet Sauvignon). Five were opened and tasted to ensure they weren’t tainted in some way, and the same amount of wine was poured or extracted from each bottle. The five bottles were each sealed for two days using one of five different preservation systems. After 48 hours, the wines were tasted blind (i.e., with no advance knowledge of which glass was which) and were rated based on how close they tasted to a freshly opened bottle. The wines were then resealed for another five days. On day seven, the blind testing was repeated against another fresh bottle of wine. My wife, who is a wine industry professional and seasoned taster, also tasted all the wines with me. Our marks were very similar across the board.

Vacu Vin Wine Saver

preservation-system

This is the preservation system just about everyone starts on. It’s cheap, brainlessly simple to use, and for overnight preservation, it usually works well. Just pop a special rubber stopper into the bottle’s mouth, then press the hand pump to the top. Pull back a few times and air gets sucked out of the bottle, creating a (somewhat weak) vacuum. A clicking noise alerts you when the pump can’t extract any more air.

Private Preserve

private-preserver

It takes quite a leap of faith to put your trust in Private Preserve. This can of inert gasses—nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and argon—feels empty when it’s full. To use it, first you read the instructions. (There’s enough text emblazoned on the surface of the can to make Dr. Bronner jealous.) Then, following the steps outlined, just remove one of the WD-40 style mini-straws, connect it to the nozzle, and insert it into a partially-consumed bottle of wine. A specific sequence of long and short compressions (described on the canister) sprays a blanket of this invisible gas atop the wine, then you quickly seal it shut, ostensibly sealing in what’s inside.

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