versus Private Preserve Keeping Wine Fresh after Opening A note from Avalon- Customers ask us
all the time "how do I keep an opened bottle of wine tasting
fresh? This article gives the clearest answer I've found about
the two most popular options, a pump device and a gas product.
Hope this article is useful to you! -Jean
The Vac-u-Vin "Concerto"
By Jim Clarke
One of the common frustrations of buying
wine for the home is the accepted unit of purchase: the bottle.
If you only want a glass to wind down with at the end of the day,
opening a bottle could mean throwing away the remainder. Richer
red wines can last a day or two after opening, but usually not
longer, and whites often don’t make it overnight. As a college
student I remember obstinately drinking wine that had pretty much
been sapped of any interest simply because I couldn’t stomach
the idea of having wasted most of the bottle.
No one likes to waste wine, but these days
pressure to finish a bottle can become life-threatening for those
of us who have to go out on the road later. Fortunately a few companies
have developed some gadgetry to help you make an opened bottle
live a bit longer on the shelf. Their foe is oxygen; exposure to
the gas that we find essential to life is sometimes not so friendly
While exposure to oxygen may bring out the
wine’s aromas when you’re serving it (hence the practice
of decanting young, tannic red wines), prolonged exposure mutes
the wine via oxidation: in essence, your wine rusts. Recorking
the wine and chilling it (red wines as well) until you next serve
it helps somewhat; the process of decay is slowed at lower temperatures.
But mechanical means are needed if you want to prolong an opened
bottle’s lifespan for any significant length of time.
Taking it out
So how do you keep the oxygen away from your
wine once you’ve pulled the cork? The Dutch company VacuVinand
a few others have created pumps to vacuum out the offending oxygen.
In place of the cork you put a rubber stopper on top of the bottle;
then you stick the VacuVin on top of it and pump it several times
(The Concerto model makes a clicking noise when a vacuum is reached;
I preferred this over the basic model, as I often found that it
took more pumps than I would have suspected).
Critics contend that the aromas themselves
are being vacuumed out along with the ambient atmosphere, and that
under ordinary conditions the vacuum created is far from complete.
Nonetheless, the electrical version of this product is popular
in a number of restaurants.
Putting it in
Scott A. Farmer of California's Private
Preserve came up with another approach. He developed
a mix of gasses (Nitrogen, Carbon Dioxide, and Argon) that
you spray into the bottle. These gasses displace the oxygen
in the bottle and create a protective blanket over the wine.
Put the cork back in immediately and store the bottle upright.
The gas mixture has no aroma of its own, so it does not corrupt
the wine (In fact, this is the same mixture of gasses many
wineries use in pumping their wine for bottling, etc.). Farmer’s
product is called Private Preserve and, like
the VacuVin, has inspired several imitators.
Put to the Test
How effective are they? Although I didn’t conduct a scientific
study, I did try out both methods under war conditions at home.
It took some time before I worked up the confidence to trust any
of my higher-end wines to the preservers, but eventually I was
using both systems with any red, white, or dessert wine that I
didn’t finish in the course of an evening.
Neither product is meant to be used with sparkling wines as they
don’t create a pressurized environment to retain the wines
bubbles. The VacuVin was fairly effective in the
short term, giving wines a few extra days of freshness. Sometimes,
and especially if I left the bottle for more than a few days, there
was no “pop” when I removed the rubber stopper and
it was clear that air had seeped into the bottle and eliminated
the vacuum, with subsequent deleterious effects. So the VacuVin
didn’t really come through for me over longer periods, but
did give most wines the needed few extra days of life.
Private Preserve was more
versatile and effective on the whole, despite being disappointing
at first. The problem was actually me. Initially I was replacing
the cork about halfway, much as I would typically do to prevent
potential spills. Once I began pushing the cork in a bit further – deep
enough that it would require a corkscrew to remove it again – the
wine-preserving gasses began to show their effectiveness.
Properly used, I found Private Preserve protected
a number of different wines for extended periods ranging from a
few days to a couple of weeks. Mr. Farmer claims to have preserved
wines for months; given deadlines and my own drinking habits I
have yet to push the product to this extreme. I did, however, entrust
it with a delicate fino sherry for about ten days and was pleasantly
surprised to find it still retained the appley note that is usually
the first casualty of opened sherry.
Normally the VacuVin would be sufficient
to my needs; on the rare occasions that I have a half empty bottle,
I usually return to finish the job within a day or two. However,
I imagine if I developed the habit of using Private Preserve I
would take advantage of it by pairing wines with courses of even
casual meals at home; opening a white to go with a starter salad,
a red for my burger, and a dessert wine to go with ice cream and
the Daily Show wouldn’t be a wasteful indulgence. The VacuVin
Concerto as is isn’t up to this task, as it comes with only
two rubber stoppers. You can order more, of course, which may also
become necessary if your cat, like mine, decides that they make
wonderful toys and pursues it into hidden recesses of the apartment.
But “ordering more” is also inherent to Private Preserve;
each can is good for about 120 uses before it empties and needs
to be replaced.
Private Preserve retails for about
ten dollars; VacuVin runs about the same, with the Concerto model
priced around twice that. Both are available at liquor stores
and online. I found that chilling the wine in the fridge as an
added measure paid off with both products. Finally, some wines
are beyond hope once they’ve been opened; just the amount
of exposure that comes from opening the wine and pouring a glass
or two will push the wine toward its demise despite any efforts
at preservation. In any case, Private Preserve and VacuVin certainly
do provide an excuse to drink a bit more (opening that second
bottle) or less, as the occasion demands, without wasting some
of the experience.
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