Wine Notes – Wine Storage
I’ll only drink on two occasions: when I’m alone or when I’m with somebody. Especially when I’m alone, and occasionally with friends, there is leftover wine. How should you handle leftover wine? If it is wine that cost $20 to $30 per bottle, you certainly wouldn’t pour it down the drain. That would be alcohol abuse. Simply leaving it on the counter is equally abusive, as wine can go bad as quickly as overnight. The main culprit is oxygen.
Wine is always in a state of change. It’s either getting ripe, has reached its peak, or is going bad. Winemakers have worked diligently for centuries to develop ways to stabilize wine. Burning sulfur candles inside wine barrels was the first introduction of sulfites to help preserve wine, but that alone isn’t enough to stop the effects that oxygen has on our favorite beverage.
The traditional and simplest way to preserve your leftover wine is to put it in a container that’s filled to the top, so there is no air, and then sealing it. A plastic water bottle will do the trick, but you’ll need just the right size bottle to hold all of your remaining wine. I purchased a couple different size bottles that have built-in rubber stoppers like those on Grolsch beer bottles. These work great and are perfect for storing extra wine. But for Greg Lambrecht, a wine connoisseur and medical device inventor, this method wasn’t quite good enough. So Lambrecht developed a device that’s designed to extract wine from a corked bottle without opening it or introducing oxygen to it.
The Coravin 1000 Wine Access System is the most innovative home wine tool I have seen. Retailing at about $300 and available at many kitchenware stores, it works by inserting a stainless steel needle through the cork and then pressurizing the bottle with argon, an inert gas. The wine leaves the bottle through the needle and pours through a spout. When you are finished pouring, you just remove the needle and the cork reseals itself.
For a wine geek like me, this is a fantastic innovation. I can test a small amount of wine from multiple vintages of the same producer, or wine from the same vintage by different producers using the same grape. This new flexibility, allowing me to enjoy small amounts of wine from several different bottles, is a game changer.
Restaurants face a similar challenge in offering wine by the glass, and often fail miserably. Once a customer orders a glass of wine, that bottle is exposed to oxygen and will go bad within 24 hours. I have been served so many glasses of spoiled wine that I’ll look behind the bar to identify something that hasn’t been opened, or I’ll ask for a fresh bottle. Many bartenders aren’t expecting customers to distinguish between a fresh bottle and one that’s old, and will tell you, “I just opened this an hour ago.” They lie sometimes, so if it tastes like raisins, send it back.
The restaurant solution to this problem is called The WineStation, which is manufactured by Napa Technology. Each station holds four bottles of wine at the correct serving temperature and pressurizes the bottles in a manor similar to the Coravin product, using argon. The wine is poured by the glass and is guaranteed fresh for 60 days.
The Stonehenge Inn & Spa has installed three stations at its restaurant, storing a total of 12 bottles of its best-selling high-end wines. By-the-glass sales have skyrocketed as a result of the Napa Technology stations. This is great news for restaurant customers who would like to try high-end wines without buying an entire bottle, or would like to pair each course with a different wine.
Remember, wine is like bread. You must consume it fresh, and if you store it properly, it can stay fresh for up to 60 days. Don’t leave your wine poorly sealed for several days before you get back to it, and don’t let any restaurant serve you opened wine that was not stored properly.
Top photo: You can now serve a single glass of your favorite wine without the need to finish the entire bottle. The Coravin 1000 Wine Access System uses a needle to penetrate the cork, and argon gas to push the wine out. Oxygen is never introduced, so the bottle will last for months. Photo by Coravin.