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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,
Do “wine preserving” devices such as the Coravin and the wine bladder balloon really work? If so, are they cost-effective?
—Bob, Scarsdale, N.Y.
I’m really glad there are a lot of advancements when it comes to preserving open bottles of wine—it’s one of the subjects I get asked about the most, and it’s clear that wine lovers worry when they can’t finish their wines all at once. I personally don’t own any of these gadgets—I just keep it simple and transfer the leftovers to a smaller container (to limit the exposure to oxygen) and store the wine in the refrigerator to get some extra mileage out of the bottle. I also have a few hinged Champagne stoppers, in the rare case a bottle of bubbly lasts once opened at my house.
Of all the gizmos I’ve seen over the years, I’m most enthusiastic about the Coravin, which lets you pour wine from a bottle without removing the cork, in a pretty easy-to-use system involving a hollow needle and some argon gas. The tests that we’ve done with it have been positive (WineSpectator.com members can read about our Coravin tests), and I know that many sommeliers I respect are using the Coravin as a way to serve wines by the glass.
I haven’t personally tried the wine bladder device, in which you inflate a balloon-like bladder inside your open bottle of wine, but for what it’s worth, I’ve heard that the balloons can pop or have trouble holding air over time.
As far as “cost-effective” goes, that really depends on you: how much you spend on wine, and how the $300 Coravin or $25 wine bladder fits into that equation. If you regularly open pricey bottles and don’t finish them in one sitting, a Coravin might be a good investment. It also depends on whether or not you notice your wines fading—one of my friends can nurse a bottle of wine over a week and not notice a difference.
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