Monday, December 31, 2018

Save Your Wine!

If you are like me, you'd love to have a glass of wine in the evening. You don't want to chug your wine and clean out a bottle all by yourself in one night or even two. You just want to sip and savor a glass. You do the math. If you get five to six glasses of wine from a bottle, will you finish the wine before it goes bad?

Thankfully the wine industry today is brimming with all kinds of wine preservation gadgets to solve this first-world wine problem. I'll share some thoughts about these gadgets in this post and even throw in one non-gadget solution that works surprisingly well.


Every wine geek with an impressive cellar seems to own a Coravin wine preservation system. I don't own one yet. However, I have benefitted from restaurants that have one, which allows them to serve some exquisite wines by the glass.
Coravin wine preservation system

Introduced in 2011, the Coravin wine preservation system leverages medical device technology to allow wine to be poured without removing the cork from nor letting oxygen into the bottle. The gadget inserts a hollow needle into the cork to extract the wine. Argon, an inert gas, is pumped into the bottle to displace the space left by the wine poured.

When the needle is removed from the bottle, the cork will naturally reseal, leaving the bottle intact. It's almost like watching a sci-fi movie. Needless to say, Coravin does not work with synthetic or glass closures since it relies on the "self-healing" power of cork.

For all its wonders, Coravin is also cost-prohibitive, starting at $200 for the basic model to over $1,000 for the latest offering with all the bells and whistles. And that is before you consider that each argon capsule used to preserve the wine in the bottle costs about $9 and is good for about 15 glasses of wine. It is definitely not for the average wine drinker.

Best for: Savoring that special bottle of wine over time, even years, to observe how it evolves. It also allows you to taste multiple prized bottles side by side without worrying about finishing them all.

Vacuum Seal Wine Saver

For many years, my go-to wine preservation gadget has been and still is the Sharper Image Vacuum Seal Wine Saver. It was a thoughtful gift from my niece, and it has saved many bottles of delicious wine. The wine saver preserves wine by sucking the air out of the bottle and sealing the bottle. This reduces the contact with air, which would otherwise oxidize the wine.

Sharper Image Vacuum
Seal Wine Saver
The vacuum seal wine saver is no competition to Coravin's inert argon. The seal is often less than perfect, and air leaks into the bottle over time. However, my trusty Sharper Image wine saver will suck air out of the bottle throughout the day. On average, it has extended the life of my open bottle to about 5 days without severe deterioration to its quality.

There are a myriad of vacuum seal wine savers in the market with varying abilities to preserve wine. The price range is definitely friendlier than that of a Coravin. You can get a manual version for as low as $10 and an electric saver can go up to $50-60. The downside for my electric saver is that it drains batteries very quickly as it sucks air periodically throughout its use. I can go through about two AA batteries every week with constant use.

Best for: Enjoying a really nice bottle for a few days.


Yes, you can freeze wine and apparently time too! This is probably the least expensive option if you already own a freezer. I actually got this idea from Wine Spectator Senior Editor, James Laube. There is some cred there. Nonetheless, I decided to try it for myself.

Freezing 2015 Pierre More Monthelie
I opened a bottle of 2015 Pierre Morey Monthelie this past Thanksgiving. After a couple of glasses, I put the seal back on the bottle and stick it in the freezer. A week later, I thawed the bottle for a few hours and poured myself a glass.

Viola! The thawed wine has retained not only the freshness of taste but also the aroma. I would not have known that the wine has been previously frozen purely from tasting it. The last glass had quite a bit of fine and almost sandy sediments, that was a bit unusual. But it was otherwise fine! That said, I probably would not freeze the wine for more than a couple of weeks.

Best for: Saving an open bottle when you have to head out of town for a few days or just because you are in a mood for a different bottle of wine but want to get back to this one again.

My Verdict: There is a wine saving technique for every bottle of wine that is worth saving. (Not all are!) And the price ranges from $0 to over $1,000. Consider the different scenarios and options. I think I'm going to use all three!