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Dear Dr. Vinny,
A restaurant I went to sold me a bottle of wine. They actually uncorked and recorked it for my purchase. How long should the wine sit before being uncorked again? Thank you.
—D., Akron, Ohio
For folks who are confused as to why a restaurant would open a bottle it sold for you to take away, it may be a way for it to get around a liquor license that only allows it to sell alcohol to be consumed on the premises. Even if the restaurant isn’t supposed to just sell wine at retail, Ohio law allows for patrons to take home whatever wine they haven’t finished in the restaurant. So by opening the bottle and then sealing it again, they’ve turned what might look like a retail sale into an approved “doggy bag” for you to transport home (in your trunk or glove box—no open containers accessible to drivers allowed). Ohio is one of several states that require leftover wines to be put into tamper-proof, transparent, one-time-use bags.
While I’m glad that these sorts of laws encourage folks to purchase wines by the bottle and consume them responsibly, it’s kind of a bummer for you, because you might not have wanted to drink the wine right away, and by opening the bottle—even if they promptly put the cork back in—they’re forcing your hand to drink it promptly.
Once a bottle is open, most wines will start to fade after no more than a day or two, though how much mileage you can get will depend on what kind of wine it is and who’s going to be enjoying it. Older wines will typically fade faster than young, robust bottlings, and your palate might be more or less sensitive to the nutty, bruised-apple notes that the exposure to oxygen will cause. Storing the open bottle in the refrigerator will buy you some time, as will transferring the leftovers to a smaller container (minimizing its exposure to air) if you can’t finish it in one sitting.
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