Do vacuum pumps work for saving leftover wine?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I watched a Wine Spectator video on how to store leftover wine. It stressed the importance of limiting oxygen exposure, and recommended saving leftover wine in a smaller container. What about devices that create a vacuum seal in the original wine bottle so a transfer is not required? Do they work?

—Bob, Scarsdale, N.Y.

Dear Bob,

Thanks for watching our video on how to save leftover wine! As you might have guessed, we believe that transferring leftover wine into a smaller container to reduce the amount of oxygen exposure is the best method for preserving wine after the bottle has been opened.

I have a soft spot for those rubber stoppers and vacuum pumps that can be secured to a wine bottle or decanter and which are marketed as wine-preservation devices—when I first got into wine, I liked the ritual of feeling like I was protecting my wines, and the satisfying noise when I removed the stoppers that made me think they were working.

But research suggests that while they might remove some air in the headspace of the bottle initially, they aren’t removing any significant amount of oxygen. Other studies have shown that they are prone to air exchange, and there’s a concern that they might even mute a wine’s aromas (to be fair, the flavor and aroma of any open bottle of wine will start to change or diminish after it's been open for a day or two).

There are other products out there that have a little more science to back them up, particularly products (like Coravin) that use an inert gas like argon. A gas that’s heavier than oxygen can create an invisible blanket on the surface of the wine, protecting it from premature oxidation. Putting an opened bottle in the refrigerator can also slow down the oxidation process.

—Dr. Vinny

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