ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

I often read about a wine that has been “recorked.” Sometimes this term is used when a wine has been topped off at a winery, though sometimes it seems to stand alone. Is there a way to “recork” an already opened bottle of wine? Can I do it at home? And if so, can you give me another excuse to convince my girlfriend that “If I don’t finish it, the bottle will go bad!”?

—Max, Boston

Dear Max,

Strictly speaking, the term “recorking” refers to a specific process that’s meant to give ageworthy (and generally expensive) wines more years of safe aging by swapping an old cork for a new one. The bottle is carefully uncorked; the wine is tested for quality; any ullage, or decline in the bottle’s fill level, is replaced with additional wine (preferably from the same winery and vintage); and finally the bottle receives a new cork and capsule. Generally this is done at the original winery by its own personnel, and a certificate of authenticity accompanies the recorked bottle. However, some collectors believe that this process can do as much harm as good, and recorked bottles don’t always fare well on the secondary market.

But if you just want to know how to keep an opened bottle of wine in good condition until you can finish it, there are all kinds of methods out there for preserving wine. You can use inert gases, or create a vacuum, or even just freeze it. In my experience, the first thing to do is move the leftover wine into a smaller bottle so less of it is exposed to air. I keep clean half-bottles on hand for this (and in a pinch, I’ll just use a small water bottle) and refrigerate them, which will further slow any deterioration. But despite your best efforts, most people will start to notice unfavorable changes after a few days or maybe a week, depending on the wine.

—Dr. Vinny


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