What is the best way to keep an opened bottle of wine if you can’t finish it all in one sitting? So far the arguments over what works have centered on several techniques, all designed to protect the wine from exposure to air, because it’s the oxygen in the headspace inside the bottle that robs a wine of its freshness.
Many say you can just cork up the bottle and refrigerate it, which slows down any chemical reactions. Or transfer the wine into a smaller bottle, which eliminates the headspace but limits your consumption to exactly one-half of the bottle. Others swear by devices that claim to pull a vacuum as they seal up the bottle, but my experience has been that they pull out a lot of the aromatics with the air, and besides, it’s not anywhere close to a full vacuum so some oxidation does take place anyway.
To date, the best techniques involve displacing the air inside the bottle with an inert odorless gas, such as nitrogen or argon. Many wine bars use a device that hooks up a row of bottles to a source of these gases. They just tap off what they need. Spray cans are designed to do something similar, on the principle that the gas is heaver than air and therefore displaces it on the wine’s exposed surface.
A new product looks like a workable solution. At least my few experiments with it have proven successful. It’s called the Wine Shield, designed and marketed by Australian Barry Rees, who got interested in wine when he worked for Philip Morris during that company’s ownership of Lindemans and other Australian wines. More recently he has been a turnaround CEO for hire.
The product, originally called Wine Preserva (Rees says he changed the name to Wine Shield because “the public thought Preserva sounded like it involved chemical preservatives”), is a thin, light-weight flexible disk of bubble wrap, sealed with a food-grade plastic called LDPE, the same material used for Saran wrap. It floats on the surface of the wine inside the bottle, creating a barrier between the wine and the oxygen. The bubbles in the center of the disk are cleverly designed to look like a bunch of grapes. The edge of the disk is scored so it can fit snugly in most bottle widths.
“That took a few tries to get right,” Rees said on a visit to his import office near San Francisco. “My first patent on it was in 2004, the most recent in 2008.” The early problems involved getting the dimensions right, and designing an easy-to-use applicator.
What Rees came up with is a sort of long plastic fork, which folds in half so it can fit into a box the same size as the disks. Each “shield” comes in a foil packet that’s designed to open on opposite edges just wide enough to insert the plastic fork, which Rees calls “the wine spear.” Twisting the fork forms the disk into a shape that can be pushed into the bottle through the neck. The shield settles onto the wine’s surface.
At first, I had a problem getting the shield to flop onto the surface. It stuck to the side of the bottle and I had to prod it with a chopstick. With white wines, you could just shake the bottle, but I wouldn’t want to do that with a red that has thrown some sediment. Once I got the technique down, though, it worked fine.
In tests with three different bottles of open wine, the Wine Shield was a success.
I tried the Wine Shield on three bottles—a Washington Riesling under cork, an Oregon Pinot Noir and an Australian Shiraz under twist-off caps. I tasted a glass and poured off some more wine to leave a half-filled bottle. After about an hour, I applied the disks and stoppered the bottles. Four days later, all the wines tasted exactly as I described in my original notes.
Rees said he is having the product tested in a laboratory in California against other methods of preservation. The test, scheduled for August, involves 75 consumers tasting the wines blind against fresh bottles. Earlier lab tests have found little difference in color, aroma and taste between a fresh bottle and one preserved under the Shield for seven days, significantly better than other preservation systems that were tested at the same time.
Rees has been selling previous versions of this product in Australia and Europe for several years under the name Wine Preserva. He has aimed his current efforts in the U.S. at the restaurant trade, wine bars and winery tasting rooms, some of which sell the product to consumers. Among the online sources for consumers are K&L Wine Merchants and winehardware.com, at $5 to $6 for a 6-pack, $7 for a 10-pack and $30 for a 50-pack. Those are currently sold under the old name, but the new packaging is being rolled out this month.
Jordan Horoschak — Houston, TX — July 1, 2010 6:19pm ET
Jamie Sherman — Sacramento — July 1, 2010 9:32pm ET
Andrew J Grotto — Washington, DC — July 1, 2010 9:42pm ET
Tim Schultheiss — Monrovia CA — July 1, 2010 9:44pm ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — July 2, 2010 12:02am ET
Michael Twelftree — Barossa Valley, Australia — July 2, 2010 3:21am ET
Lacey Davidson — Cessenon sur Orb, France — July 2, 2010 5:53am ET
Scott Oneil — Denver, CO — July 2, 2010 6:35am ET
Gary Goldstein — San Francisco — July 2, 2010 11:50am ET
Troy Peterson — Burbank, CA — July 2, 2010 12:32pm ET
Tracy Weland — Canada — July 2, 2010 1:57pm ET
Dennis Mangino — Brighon, MI — July 2, 2010 3:35pm ET
Michael Twelftree — Barossa Valley, Australia — July 2, 2010 5:19pm ET
Hoyt Hill Jr — Nashville, TN — July 3, 2010 2:51pm ET
Don Rauba — Schaumburg, IL — July 3, 2010 3:39pm ET
Troy Peterson — Burbank, CA — July 3, 2010 7:15pm ET
Lowry Sweney — Los Angeles, CA — July 5, 2010 2:44am ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — July 5, 2010 9:06am ET
Russell Quong — Sunnyvale, CA, USA — July 7, 2010 12:36am ET
Jeff Lee — Denver, CO — July 7, 2010 5:14pm ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — July 7, 2010 5:32pm ET
Ronald G Harris — Jackson, WY — July 7, 2010 7:11pm ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — July 7, 2010 7:39pm ET
Harry A Brennan — Montreal, Quebec, Canada — July 7, 2010 10:03pm ET
Dennis Mangino — Brighon, MI — July 8, 2010 12:02pm ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — July 8, 2010 12:33pm ET
Daniel A Godden — Ventura County, CA — July 8, 2010 12:42pm ET
Daniel A Godden — Ventura County, CA — July 8, 2010 1:08pm ET
Marc Breitenmoser — Switzerland — July 9, 2010 8:54am ET
Jason Adams — Florida — July 10, 2010 2:53pm ET
Keith Kenison — Paterson, WA, USA — July 13, 2010 3:00pm ET
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions