Whether you enjoyed one glass of wine after work or overestimated how much your guests would drink at your dinner party, occasionally there comes a time when you end the night with an open bottle of good wine.
Leftovers of a great meal are always welcome, but when it comes to wine, this is not good news, as the taste of the beverage changes quickly if you don’t store it correctly. Luckily, after centuries of drinking this grape elixir, some hacks and gadgets exist to help preserve the lifespan of an open bottle.
Choose your wine wisely
Even if the taste changes, drinking an open bottle of wine is not a health risk, as the level of alcohol is high enough to keep dangerous microorganisms from proliferating.
“That’s why wine became such a big part of human society and culture—it’s generally safe to drink and it lasts a long time,” says Amanda Stewart, an associate professor in Virginia Tech’s Department of Food Science and Technology.
Having said that, you don’t have to endure the foul taste of a spoiled bottle of wine just because it won’t make you ill.
“Oxygen is the enemy to wine,” says Casleah Herwaldt, a certified sommelier and founder of club wine By the Stem. She explains that exposing wine to oxygen triggers chemical reactions that turn alcohol into acetaldehyde. This chemical is the result of the breakdown of alcohol molecules by liver enzymes in our bodies, and it also makes wine taste like vinegar.
[Related: Make your own vinegar at home]
But wines with higher alcohol content (15.5 percent and higher), will stay fresher for longer. Another factor to consider is acidity, as pH controls the speed at which oxidation occurs. This means that the more acidic a wine is, the lower the pH, and the longer it’ll take for it to spoil. Vintages like a NZ Sauvignon Blanc or a dry rosé, are great examples.
How to extend the life of that open bottle of wine
Usually, an open bottle of red wine will remain largely unchanged for four to five days, while whites and rosés will retain their flavor for two to three. But with the proper care, you may be able to keep sipping on a tasty blend past that.
After pouring out the first round, a wine drinker should reseal an open bottle to stop oxygen from getting in. Even if you plan to leave the bottle out for future sipping, put the cap back on or insert a wine stopper in the meantime.
If the cork is good to reuse, make sure you don’t flip it, and put it back in the same position it came in. Jenna Heller, a Miami-based certified sommelier, explains that putting the cork upside down exposes the wine to the side of the cork that has been facing out into the world and any dust or debris that might have accumulated on it.
“It could totally change the entire wine,” she notes.
As an alternative, opt for clean, reusable stoppers for reds, whites, and rosés. For open bottles of bubbly, go for a sparkling wine-specific topper, as they can help the fizz go on for up to two days instead of 24 hours.
Store the open bottle upright in the fridge
Once your bottle is secured, place it in the refrigerator—yes, even red wines.
Placing the bottle upright will not only avoid spillage but also prevent exposing more wine to oxygen since the liquid has a larger surface area when laying down. And don’t worry if you don’t have a wine fridge. A regular refrigerator offers a colder temperature that will keep the wine fresher for longer.
Next time, just take out that pinot noir and let it sit until it reaches your preferred drinking temperature before serving. That process will likely take 30 to 45 minutes, but don’t bother waiting for it to reach perfect room temp.
“A lot of times it gets pretty warm in the kitchen,” says Stewart. “That red wine sitting on your kitchen counter, especially in the summertime, might be much warmer than the ideal serving temperature.”
Pour the remaining wine into a sealed glass container
To further limit the exposure to oxygen, Stewart suggests pouring the leftover wine into a small glass container that can be firmly sealed. Then store it in the fridge. Swing top bottles and mason jars will do a great job.
Up your wine gear
If you want to level up from the classic topper you received as a holiday gift, Herwaldt swears by the Repour Wine Saver, which introduces argon into the open bottle. This gas is heavier than oxygen, so it sits on the wine and acts as a barrier without affecting its flavors or aromas. Herwaldt claims the device has kept her bottles fresh for up to two months.
Vacuum out the air
A wine vacuum pump removes oxygen from the open bottle to preserve it for longer—it’s the same principle behind most vacuum-sealed foods.
But this method is not perfect as pumps can only remove about half of the air inside a bottle, says Andrew Waterhouse, a wine chemist at UC-Davis’s Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science.
Bag up the open wine
Following the same principle behind boxed wine (which preserves the quality of the liquid for weeks,) Heller pours her unfinished vino into PlatyPreserve bags. These gadgets allow you to press the remaining oxygen out of the cap and tightly seal the wine.
[Related: Wine bags for traveling and outdoor activities]
“I find it keeps bottles of wine fresh for five to six days after opening them,” she says. “It still tastes good.”
Splurge on a Coravin
Anyone who finds themselves frequently throwing out good leftover wine should consider investing in a Coravin Wine Preservation System.
Starting at $100, this device inserts a needle into the cork without displacing the material, allowing you to pour out the wine while the bottle remains sealed. Once the needle comes out, the cork expands back to its normal shape, preventing any oxygen from coming in. Restaurants rely on this system—which Waterhouse says can keep an open bottle fresh for weeks—to be able to sell high-end bottles of wine by the glass.
Heller uses her Coravin for dessert wines since she and her guests only consume a small amount of them at a time. “That’s definitely more of an investment, but that’s what I use when I have something that I know I’m not going to finish and it’s got some sort of sentimental value or it’s got a big price tag,” she says. “It’s really great for that.”