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Peter's Guide to Storing Opened Wine

Posted : 20-Mar-2015

Some Thoughts on Storing Opened Wines

I often get asked the question:

“When I open this wine bottle how long will it last?”

The obvious answer is it depends on how much of the wine you drink – but that’s not what this blog is about. Saving a bottle that is half full is something that I personally don’t have a lot of trouble with, since my wife and I rarely have wine left in the bottle. However many wine drinkers are satisfied with drinking half a bottle each night so I do agree that leaving a half-empty bottle to be thrown out because it has become vinegar is a very sad state of affairs.

So what causes opened wine to decay?

In a word, it’s oxidation. So the golden rules are to restrict the amount of air getting to the surface of the wine and to store opened bottles in the refrigerator.

So how long should I expect a wine to stay drinking nicely?

Don’t be too precious about this. If the bottle has a screw cap put it back on and put the bottle in the fridge. It should be fine to finish the next day, and perhaps up to 3 days depending on what the wine is and how empty the bottle. 

Is there anything I can do to store wines longer?

If you are organised and know ahead of time that you are only going to drink half a 750mL bottle, then there is a way. You should get a clean 375mL bottle with a screw cap and decant from the freshly opened 750 mL bottle into the smaller bottle. Fill it right up, then put the screw cap on tightly and put the bottle in the fridge. Hopefully this will extend the life up to a week. Of course with red wines it is a good idea to take them out of the fridge a few hours before you drink them to let them gradually warm up to room temperature.

Is this true for all wines?

Sadly no. It is true for younger red and white table wines. However aged wines will go “off” more quickly. I always recommend that any wine that is more than 10 years old should be decanted before drinking, then it should be consumed as soon as possible. These wines are typically fragile and should be enjoyed in one sitting.

Storing sparkling wines after opening is also tricky. I have found that vacuuming devices do not work satisfactorily.  I have found that a tight fitting pressure cap will enable you to keep most of the bubbles to the next day. Keep it in the fridge but don’t expect it to be the same as when it was freshly opened.

On the other hand, fortified wines such as port and muscat are very tolerant to storage when opened. Some will even say that they will last forever. I do not agree with that, however I have found that if these wines are stored in the fridge after opening that they can be consumed for several months, and will still be very pleasant drinking.

The bottom line?

All wines will start to decay as soon as they are opened. If you know you are only going to consume half the bottle before opening, decant it into a smaller bottle and keep it in the fridge. If you have a 750mL bottle open and want to consume it the next day put the screw cap on and put the bottle in the fridge.

For the rest, good luck.

Enjoy the wine.

Peter