Monday, April 16, 2007

Good To The Last Drop

Eureka! The experiment was a success! Why all the punctuation? I finally found an inexpensive wine preservation system for those partially consumed bottles of wine.

Preventing wine from spoiling requires slowing the rate of oxidation. This is accomplished by reducing the exposure of wine to the oxygen that is already in the bottle, and preventing new oxygen from entering. Oxidation will flatten the wine, making it lose its aromas and flavor. Left too long and your wine will become vinegar!

The preservation systems range in complexity from re-corking the bottle and leaving it on the counter, storing the wine in the fridge, using vacuum pumps to the final method of injecting pressurized Nitrogen or Argon (neutral and non-reactive) gas into the bottle to displace the oxygen.

We have tried all of the above except injecting gas with mixed results.

Natural cork needs to be in contact with moisture to create an airtight seal. Once you pull it from the bottle, it immediately loses it's effectiveness. This should be the first method you cross off the list.

Vacuum pumps can draw off the volatile esters or aroma components in the wine if used on a partially filled 750ml bottle. This can change the enjoyment of your future glass. We have used this method before but did notice a significant difference from the original tasting.

Nitrogen gas can impart "off" odors and flavors to the leftover wine and Argon gas is costly for the enthusiast. And, if you are a "green" home like ours, buying and tossing canisters is not an option.

The solution we found successful is to purchase some half-bottles or "splits". These can be found at a wine making supply store or by consuming a split of dessert type wine such as Sauternes. (More on those later.) Some splits can even be found in a screw-toppped closure. Wait, don't pre-judge! If you are unable to find anything else, a small screw topped wine bottle will work in a pinch.

Our experiment was with one of our favorite wine varietals, Grüner Veltliner. This fresh and fruity young wine hails from Austria and it has distinctive white pepper, citrus, lentil and tobacco aromas. It's high acidity also makes it a very food friendly wine, even with hard to pair foods such as artichokes, asparagus and eggs. It even ages well! Look for this grape varietal from the Kremstal or Wachau regions.

We enjoyed a glass with our lemon and herb grilled chicken, grilled asparagus and brown rice pilaf and then decanted the remaining wine into our two splits and used a vacuvin pump to removed any remaining oxygen. As it was a chilled white, we also placed the wine in the fridge. Three days later, we opened a bottle, poured the wine into our glasses and were very pleased. We did not notice any change in either the aroma or flavor of the wine.

Give this experiment a try in your home and post your results.