Q: Is it healthy to keep wine after opening a bottle? What's the best way to keep it fresh once opened—refrigeration or freezing?
A: Kevin Boyer, vice president, beverages at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, answers:
Wine left open and exposed to the elements after time will literally turn into vinegar, so while you won't be seriously harming yourself by drinking exposed wine, it certainly isn't a great experience to drink large amounts of vinegar.
Wine is a living, breathing entity. Like all living things, the effects of atmosphere, specifically oxygen, can work for and against it. In the short term, oxygen will help round out some of the rough tannins in younger wines and help induce the positive effects of aging. In the long term though, oxygen and atmospheric influences will strip the wine of tannin, acidity and overall character. The second a bottle of wine is opened, these changes begin.
The tricky question is, how long before the wine gets unpleasant? It depends on many factors:• How young the wine is—young wine has more tannic structure making it less susceptible to the aging process.
If you want to drink the wine the next day, the best thing is to insert the cork as soon as possible and keep the bottle in the fridge, as lowering the temperature of the wine will slow down the aging effects. Freezing a wine is not a good option as the change from liquid to solid adds pressure on the bottle. Freezing is also very abrasive and shocking on the wine itself. Wine may not taste the same after it has been frozen.
If you want to keep the wine for longer than a day, then you need to remove as much oxygen as possible, and there are a couple of easy and effective methods. Easiest is to pour the unused wine into a smaller bottle up to the top and seal it. This reduces the amount of oxygen that in the bottle and therefore slows the aging process. I always keep an empty half-bottle of wine lying around specifically for this, that way I can enjoy a couple glasses of wine and not feel pressured to have to consume the whole bottle.
Another option for preservation is to replace the oxygen with an inert gas, such as nitrogen or argon, which is how some professional wine bars do it. Both are key components in the air we breathe every day. They are totally inert and harmless to the consumer, and are unnoticeable in the wine.
There are also pump or vacuum seal systems that can be bought in retail stores as well as some supermarkets. The idea here is to pump out the oxygen from the bottle. Potential problems exist though as you are also removing some of the natural aromas and esters, which can strip the wine of some flavor if the bottle is pumped too much.
My advice is to try different methods and find out which one works for you.
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