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. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

If a bottle of wine is opened for the smallest tasting, with less than 1/3 of a glass taken out and then the cork replaced within, say, 10 minutes, is the wine spoiled, even though the amount of oxygen allowed into the bottle is not much more than was there originally? Is wine recorked under these circumstances drinkable after four days or more?

If the wine is not drinkable under these circumstances, is there something that can be done to make it drinkable after, say, two weeks?

—John A., Sydney, Australia

Dear John,

Spoiled? Heavens, no. Wine doesn’t really spoil, and definitely not in that scenario. Will it be drinkable after four days? Maybe, it depends on the wine (and on the person drinking the wine).

When you open a bottle of wine, it interacts with oxygen and will eventually fade and flatten out, or become what we call “oxidized.” The more you limit the exposure to air, the more life you’ll get out of a wine, but in any case, an old or delicate wine will fade more quickly than a younger, more robust wine.

Even if you open a bottle, pour out just a small amount of wine and then re-seal the bottle as quickly as you can, think about how much air you’re really exposing the wine to. There’s the popping of the cork, the air getting into the bottle as you pour, and then the increased surface area of the wine inside the bottle. Even if you were able to replicate the seal the wine had before, you now have a larger air-to-wine ratio while the bottle sits until you revisit it.

To get more mileage out of a bottle of wine, it helps to transfer the leftovers to a smaller container (with less of the wine’s surface area exposed to oxygen) and store it in a refrigerator. If you’re not particularly sensitive to oxidized notes and it’s a hearty wine, you can probably enjoy it for at least a few days.

—Dr. Vinny


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