Storing Wine Once It’s Opened
Sometimes we get so wrapped up in a subject that we miss the obvious. We focused on storing unopened bottles of wine because that was our problem: Storing bottles we’ll drink soon at the right temperature for drinking. Storing bottles properly that we’ll be keeping for a while.
It took a question from a friend to make us slap our foreheads and start writing this article.
How do you store a bottle of wine that you have opened, but not yet finished?
Half a Bottle is Better than None
This question came in on our Facebook page from none other than Stan, the BBQ Blues Man: “Rowland after I uncork a bottle and drink half, how long do I have before the rest goes bad? How do I keep the other half? I don’t bother with the gas stuff either.”
(An aside on Stan – if you love Blues music like we do, you absolutely have to listen to Stan’s “The Blues is the Blues is the Blues” program at 8PM ET Fridays on WSHA-FM 88.9 – also streamed online at: Listen Live – WSHA-FM We look forward to Friday nights as much to listen to Stan as to welcome in the weekend!)
You enjoy a glass or two with dinner, but there it sits, a half-empty (or half-full?!) bottle of wine. Do you try to jam the cork back? What if there’s not enough room in your kitchen refrigerator to store it upright – will it leak if you put it on its side? And if you figure out how to close it up and jam it into the fridge, as Stan asks, how long will it last?
Let’s break this down one question at a time.
Closing Up the Bottle
Problem number one is resealing the bottle. Oxygen (air) is the enemy – ideally you would replace the oxygen in the bottle with an inert gas, but most of us, as Stan put it, “don’t bother with the gas stuff.”
For a couple of days of storage under refrigeration, the amount of air in the bottle is not going to ruin your wine. You do need to reseal the bottle so there’s not a steady supply of fresh oxygen.
Over the years we’ve tried more after-market wine bottle stoppers than we can remember, and most of them worked only some of the time at best. This included various systems with pumps that were supposed to suck the air out of the bottle, plastic stoppers, and the old standby, the cork that came with the bottle. Like the genie, the cork doesn’t like to go back in the bottle once it’s tasted freedom. One trick that sometimes works if you have nothing better at hand is to flip the cork around. Put the end that was closest to the foil into the bottle first. It’s usually more compressed and you have a fighting chance of forcing it back into the bottle neck.
But we have something better!
We found these Metrokane Rabbit wine stoppers purely by chance at Bed Bath and Beyond – you can also find them on Amazon – and they work like a charm! They are inexpensive, easy to fit into the bottle neck, create a snug fit and a tight seal, can be pulled back out with ease without any tools, and so far, we have never had to throw one out – they last, and last, and last. Your mileage may vary but we have never had one leak even if the wine bottle was stored on its side.
If you must have a system that sucks the air out of the bottle or replaces it with something inert, this won’t work for you – but for us, these little Rabbit stoppers solved a problem we had dealt with for 30 years.
Keeping it from Spoiling
Now that you’ve got the bottle sealed, don’t leave it out on the counter! If you don’t have a wine refrigerator, put it in your kitchen fridge. If that’s not an option, then the closer you can get the wine to 55 degrees F or below, the longer it will last. A cool cellar is better than a kitchen counter.
But the best option is a wine cooler, and even if you don’t need to store a lot of wine, there are some great inexpensive countertop wine coolers available around $100 that will solve this problem for you nicely, as well as keep a few bottles at serving temperature.
The exact length of time the wine will keep depends on a number of factors, including percent alcohol content, how long and how well the wine was stored before you opened it, and how long the bottle sat open to the air. But in general, if resealed and refrigerated, an opened bottle will last at least 3 to 5 days, and most of us have kept a bottle around longer than that and been no worse for it. If you’re a diehard wine enthusiast with Robert Parker’s tastebuds, you may detect the difference. But for most of us mere mortals, the wine will be fine, thank you!
OK, we’re sure some of you will have a different opinion on this, so leave a comment down below and let us know your experience. How do you reseal the wine? Do you use one of those vacuum pumps? What’s the longest you’ve kept an opened bottle before finishing it?
And check out the wine cooler reviews here if you don’t have a cooler – once you get one, you’ll wonder why you waited!
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