"Can we do something about these bottles?"
My wife asks me this, with implied irritation, at least once a week. The question is usually punctuated by the sound of bottles sliding across a granite countertop and clinking loudly together. I bristle at the question.
There's a section of our counter that seems to organically collect partially emptied wine bottles, the detritus of my tastings as I look for five wines to recommend each week. Some have a cork stuffed back in the bottle, or a screw cap re-affixed. Others are closed with rubber stoppers, pumped free of air to protect the wine. A few may have glass tops plucked from the collection in my kitchen drawer, offering an imperfect seal against oxidation. And some are just left open, because what the heck. There are still more in the refrigerator door, and of course, the instant rejects that were emptied into the sink and tossed unceremoniously into the recycling bin.
All this has left me a bit jaded to the question of what to do with leftover wine, but it also has given me a more relaxed perspective: Don't worry about it. Your wine will be fine, for a few days, at least.
Almost everyone knows that wine will turn to vinegar with exposure to oxygen. That is true, eventually. But the process does not happen quickly. Good, young wine will even improve with exposure to air - "Let it breathe" - and may taste better the second or third day after you open it.
Here are several ways to preserve your opened wine, including special gizmos you can buy, with a discussion of their advantages and pitfalls.
The simplest thing to do is shove the cork back in the bottle as far as you can (or refasten the screw cap) and leave the wine on the counter. A re-corked wine should be fine for a day or two, or three. I have found screw caps can keep good wine fresh for weeks, even without refrigeration.
That said, the refrigerator is always a good idea, for white or red wines. Cold slows oxidation. Disadvantages: You'll need to let reds warm up a bit the next day, and the bottles will need to stand up in the door of your fridge - a resealed cork may not be a total seal to prevent leakage if you lay the bottle on its side.
There are numerous gadgets to avoid oxidation. The Vacu Vin is a pump that supposedly sucks oxygen out of the bottle, leaving a vacuum over the wine until you release the rubber stopper. The pump and two stoppers last forever, assuming you don't lose the stoppers. I've always had good luck with this - even after a few weeks, squeezing the stopper releases a reassuring "poof" as the vacuum is broken. The Vacu Vin has its skeptics, though, who don't believe the pump actually protects the wine.
Wine collectors have become infatuated with the Coravin, a device designed to let us enjoy a glass of wine without removing the cork from the bottle. The wine is extracted through a needle that punctures the cork and then inserts argon gas to protect the remaining wines, for months if not longer, because the cork's seal has not been broken. You will need to buy replacement argon cartridges, so there's a recurring investment. Coravin does have a good - if still short - track record on preserving wine remaining in the bottle.
Savino is a carafe designed to preserve your red or white wine from oxygen over several days. A floating stopper protects the wine from at least most of the oxygen in the carafe, while a cap creates a good seal against outside air. I've found a quality wine will stay fresh for several days in a Savino, longer than just leaving it re-corked in the bottle. The Savino also fits more conveniently in the door of your fridge.
If you like to start your evening with a glass of champagne or other bubbly, you can stretch that bottle with a champagne stopper, available at most wine stores or online for anywhere from $6 to more than $20, depending on how fancy they are. You shove the stopper on the top of the bottle and clamp two wings around the bottle neck to hold the seal. Pop up the wings and there's a pop almost as satisfying as when you twisted the cork out of the bottle the first time.
The goal is to protect your wine from spoilage, so it can live to let you drink another day. And if all you want is to save some wine for tomorrow, often the simplest solutions are the best.
This article was originally published on The Washington Post