What to do with wine leftovers

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Image:  istockphoto/ijoe84

Figuring out what to do with an unfinished bottle of wine may not be a huge problem for some, but it’s not uncommon that after a bottle of wine is opened, it doesn’t get finished in one sitting.  So how can you keep it to enjoy later?

It’s all about air

The moment the cork is taken out of the bottle the wine comes into contact with air.  It is good for wine to have a certain amount of exposure to air when it is first opened in order to allow the wine to “breathe.”  This causes the wine to open up and reveal more of its aroma and bouquet.

But after about an hour, the air starts a chemical reaction called oxidation. This causes the wine to become flat and diminishes the flavor of the wine.  The longer the wine is exposed to the air, the more flavor and character it loses, eventually making the wine unpleasant to drink.  You can prolong the life of your wine and save money by properly storing your leftovers.

The simplest method is to re-cork the wine and put it in the refrigerator.  The coolness slows down the oxidation process and corking limits the amount of air that can interact with the wine.  This method will preserve the wine for a short amount of time, say a couple of days.

Another way to save your extra wine is to transfer it into a half-sized bottle.  Use a funnel to pour the wine from the half empty bottle to the half-sized bottle.  In a smaller bottle, there will be less room for air.  You should still make sure to cork the wine and keep it refrigerated.

A better way to preserve wine is to remove all of its contact with air.  There are special devices called wine pumps that you can use to pump the extra air out of a bottle.  Even after you pump the air out you should still store the wine in the refrigerator.  A pump will never be able to remove all traces of oxygen but does prolong the life a bit better than just putting the bottle back in the fridge.

The most reliable way to store opened wine is to use a wine preserver spray.  This spray covers the wine with a layer of inert gasses that protect it from oxidation.  They also help to preserve the wine.  This is by far the best way to keep your wine, if you want to save it for any length of time.  This method can preserve wine for weeks.

If you’ve got a wine hanging around in the fridge that has gone bad, you really can’t get it back. While some people may choose to use this as a cooking wine, I am of the opinion that bad is bad and it doesn’t get better.  Chances are if it doesn’t taste good in the glass anymore, then it won’t do much for your cooking either.  But I understand that it may hurt to dump it down the drain so if you use it in your cooking, I won’t tell anyone!

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