There’s nothing worse than opening a bottle of wine at night and then not being able to finish it. You just know that if you store it overnight after being opened it’s going to lose some of its flavor and start to quickly oxidize and become stale.
Depending on the type of wine, it can begin to go stale immediately after opening which can lead to the wine slowly going bad until it’s almost undrinkable, and nobody wants to try and force down a glass of stale wine three days later.
While there isn’t much you can do to prevent oxidation after opening a bottle of wine, there are some things you can do to help slow down the process. This will buy you some time before the wine goes completely stale so you can enjoy the last few glasses without having to pour it down the drain.
How to Keep an Open Bottle of Wine Fresh
Finish the Bottle
There are several ways you can help to slow down the oxidation process in an open bottle of wine, but the best thing you can do is always finish the bottle that you open. Obviously by finishing the bottle you won’t have to worry about it going bad. This is especially helpful when it comes to older, aged, wines that could start to go bad within hours of opening.
If you have trouble finishing a whole bottle of wine, we suggest buying half bottles instead. If you know you or your guests are not big wine drinkers, half bottles are a great way to serve wine and not have to worry about finishing 5 glasses.
Re-Cork The Bottle
When the night has come to an end and it’s time to store that half drank bottle of wine, re-corking the bottle is the least you can do to help preserve the freshness of the wine.
If you’re planning to reuse the original cork that came in the bottle, be sure to reinsert it the same way that it came in the bottle. Meaning, don’t try to force the clean end into the bottle even though it might seem slightly smaller and easier to push in.
While the clean side may look clean, since it wasn’t exposed to the wine already, that does not mean that it’s clear of germs or bacteria. It has been exposed to things that you probably don’t want to be drinking.
You can also use a wine stopper to plug up the bottle if the cork is proving tricky to put back in. Wine stoppers come in many different styles, but they are all designed for the same thing, to prevent oxygen from entering the bottle and exposing the wine.
In fact, re-inserting a wine stopper or cork into the bottle after pouring each round will help limit the amount of oxidation while the wine is not “in use”. This can also help keep the wine fresher for longer.
If you’re looking for something a little better than just a wine stopper, then you’ll want to purchase a wine oxygen pump.
These devices come with a specially designed wine stopper and a small pump that can be used to remove the oxygen from the bottle once the wine stopper is in place.
When you’re finished drinking your bottle for the evening, place the specially designed wine stopper into the bottle. Next, you’ll want to place the vacuum pump over the wine stopper and “pump” the oxygen out of the bottle.
This will help to limit the amount of oxygen in the bottle that is coming in contact with the wine. It will help slow down the oxidation process and help keep your wine fresh for longer than just using a typical wine stopper or cork.
These devices are usually relatively cheap and while some wine connoisseurs argue against them, they are typically useful for the more casual drinker who just wants to keep their bottle fresh for a couple more days after opening.
Gas Wine Preservation
If you’re really serious about your wine and preserving that open bottle, you may want to look into a device called The Coravin.
While The Coravin isn’t cheap with a price tag of between $100-400, this is possibly the best way to preserve your wine for future occasions. This method is sometimes used by high end restaurants to help preserve their more expensive bottles of wine that may not get ordered as frequently.
The Coravin uses a needle to pierce the cork at the top of the bottle, so you’re not technically opening the bottle completely. While the are a variety of different models and systems, the idea behind The Coravin is that by pushing the needle through the cork you’re not exposing the wine to any outside oxygen.
This allows you to pour a glass and then set the bottle aside as if it was never opened, leaving the next glass you pour to be just as fresh as the first one.
This system can keep a bottle of wine fresh for years depending on which system you go with. But while The Coravin system is great at keeping wine fresh, it can be expensive.
Refrigerate and Store Upright
The last thing you want to make sure you do when storing opened wine is to make sure you’re storing it properly so that it’s ready to go the next time you want to have a glass.
Keeping the temperature below 70-degrees Fahrenheit will help to significantly slow the oxidation process and keep the wine fresh. And yes, this pertains to red wines as well.
The direction in which you store the bottle can also help to slow down the oxidation process. This is why we recommend storing your open bottle straight up and down in the fridge, instead of on its side like you would an unopened bottle.
By storing it straight up and down you’re limiting the oxygen exposure to just the top layer of wine. Remember, oxygen is the enemy here so the least amount of surface area being exposed to air will help prevent the wine from going bad quickly.
Unfortunately, as soon as you open a bottle of wine it begins to oxidize and can begin to go bad. But with these tips you can help to slow down that process and keep your wine as fresh as possible for as long as possible. However, if you find yourself pouring out half-full bottles of wine frequently, you may want to consider buying small bottles.