How long will a red wine last if I use a vacuum pump to remove the air from the bottle?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

How long will a red wine last if I use a vacuum pump to remove the air from the bottle and seal it with a rubber stopper?

—Joseph V., Madera, Calif.

Dear Joseph,

I have mixed feelings about those vacuum pumps and stoppers. I used them myself when I first started drinking wine. I liked how it felt like I was really doing something to help my wine last, and there was often a satisfying pop when I would take the stopper off.

But since then, I’ve read about a lot of experiments and comparison tastings using those stoppers, and the results are inconclusive. It seems widely accepted that while they might form a good seal and remove some of the air in the headspace initially, they don't remove all of the oxygen, and they usually leak. There are also concerns that you’re taking some of the aromatics out of the wine when you pump that air out, resulting in wines that could end up tasting flat the next day. Of course, most wines will taste relatively flat after being open for a day.

Once you open a bottle of wine—and no matter the method you use to preserve it—you probably won’t get more than two to three days of extra life from it, more or less, depending on the wine and how sensitive the person drinking it is to such things. But there are some things you can do to give leftover wine a little extra life: putting it in the refrigerator (both reds and whites), using an inert gas like argon or transferring to a smaller bottle to limit its oxygen exposure.

—Dr. Vinny

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