Log In / Join Now

Ask Dr. Vinny



Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Dear Dr. Vinny,

A lot of wine-preservation systems like the Coravin use a "blanket" of argon gas to prevent further oxidation of the wine. Does that "freeze" the wine's development at that point, preventing further maturation via oxygen exchange?

I'd love to use a Coravin to sample my older wines and ensure they're not approaching "past peak" status, but I'd hate for that to prevent future development. Has anyone run a side-by-side experiment of standard wines vs. those preserved under argon?

—Mark, Cincinnati, Ohio

Dear Mark,

For those not familiar, the Coravin’s signature feature is that it allows you to pour a taste of wine without opening the bottle. A hollow needle pierces the cork, and extracted wine is replaced with argon gas to preserve the remaining wine.

The Coravin sure seems to be a game changer in the wine-preservation world, and I've answered a lot of questions about it, from how sediment might impact it to whether or not it can cross-contaminate other wines with TCA taint to actual health concerns.

You ask an interesting new question. I’ve used a Coravin personally and feel like when I come back to the bottle, the wine is showing as how I remember. But what if I still want the remaining wine to age for years more? I checked in with Coravin, and a spokesperson wrote to me, “Since the Coravin Wine Preservation Opener keeps the cork in place, wine continues to evolve the same way that it would in an un-accessed bottle. Some of the chemical changes that occur in wine, such as the breakdown of acids, don't require oxygen at all. Others do relate to oxygen that is naturally transmitted across the cork over time. Accessing a bottle with the Coravin Wine Preservation Opener does not impact these chemical changes.”

During a wine’s aging, only a minimum level of oxidation should be happening with a proper seal. Phenolic compounds binding together and dropping out of suspension, color changes and secondary notes emerging are not dependent on oxygen and shouldn’t be affected by the presence of argon. That said, it seems unlikely that there would be absolutely no difference between a bottle aged under argon vs. one aged in the traditional method, but I'm not aware of any side-by-side comparisons that have been conducted.

—Dr. Vinny

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers


WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.