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,

There are many times that I must cork a bottle of red and store it in the fridge. Usually, the wines recorked are drunk within a day or two.  Why is it—regardless of price, region and varietal—that many times the wines take on a green veggie and/or herbal taste and smell? This is before and after allowing the wine to reach drinkable temps.

—Mike I., Bethel, Conn.

Dear Mike,

As soon as a bottle is opened, the wine inside is exposed to oxygen. At first this can be a good thing, as the exposure to oxygen can help the wine “breathe,” making it more aromatic or expressive. But when you’re trying to preserve a wine, oxygen just makes it fade. Keeping your leftover wine in a sealed bottle in the refrigerator slows down this process, as would transferring the wine to a smaller container, where less of the liquid’s surface area is exposed to oxygen.

Wines vary in how much mileage you can get after they’re opened—younger, more robust wines will typically have more stamina than older, more delicate wines. How long your wines will last also depends on the sensitivity of the wine drinker. Some of my friends can nurse their open bottles for a week, but for me, a wine can usually last only a day or two.

As far as the vegetal and herbal notes you’re getting in your wine, I find that fruit flavors tend to be the ones that fade first, leaving the earthy, vegetal and herbal notes behind. If a wine really starts to oxidize, it takes on nutty, bruised-apple notes to me. Sometimes a wine that’s been open for a while tastes “stripped”—all I get is the alcohol or acidity, and the flavors are all flattened out.

—Dr. Vinny


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