by Etty Lewensztain, Wine Expert for the Menuism Wine Blog
I'm all about being resourceful when it comes to leftover food. I've been known to transform last night's seemingly dissonant dinner ingredients into tomorrow's lunch masterpiece. But when it comes to wine, leftovers are an entirely different issue.
A very innocent friend of mine once served me a glass of Pinot Noir from the fridge that she said she had opened "a little while ago." When I inquired further she confessed that by "a little while," she meant three or four months! I quickly poured the entire bottle down the drain and embarked on an open wine diatribe. Needless to say, from then on my friend relied on me to provide the libations for our dinners.
If you ever find yourself pouring a glass of three month-old Pinot, this post is for you! Read on to get the complete lowdown on how to deal with opened wine.
How long can I keep an opened bottle?
Champagne or other sparkling wines are pretty much useless after they've been opened, since the carbonation dissolves very quickly when the wine is exposed to oxygen. It's advisable to open a bottle of bubbly only if you know you'll be able to finish the whole thing, which to be honest, never seems to be a problem.
Fortified wines like Port, Sherry, and Madeira have a much longer shelf life once they've been opened due to their high alcohol and/or high sugar content. These elements act as preservatives and give fortified wines much more longevity than non-fortified wines. The shelf life of an opened bottle of fortified wine will vary depending on the specific wine type. Manzanilla or Fino Sherry, for instance, should be consumed within one week of opening if stored properly in the refrigerator. Port will last a bit longer, and should be consumed within two to four weeks of opening if stored properly in the refrigerator (Ruby Port has a bit longer shelf life than Tawny Port). Madeira lasts just about forever, literally years after opening if stored properly in the refrigerator.
What is the best way to store/preserve an opened bottle?
Are any of the fancy bottle stoppers or oxygen removal systems worth it?
When it comes to bottle stoppers, many models on the market are really meant to be decorative as opposed to functional. Opt for stoppers that come equipped with a side tab that clicks closed and seals the bottle tightly. Champagne bottle stoppers can be quite effective but again, you'll see a substantial dissipation in the bubbles due to the wine's exposure to oxygen.
In all honestly, I've never used oxygen removal or gas preservation systems on open bottles, so it's difficult for me to assess their effectiveness, but my general opinion on the matter is that it's better to remove oxygen from the bottle than to add a synthetic gas to the wine to preserve it.
Should I save opened wine for cooking?
Can I take an opened bottle of wine home from a restaurant if I don't finish it?
Etty Lewensztain is the owner of Plonk Wine Merchants, an online shop focused on small-production, artisanal and altogether great cheap wine. The food- and wine-obsessed Los Angeles native cut her teeth in the wine biz running a marketing campaign to promote Chilean wine in the U.S., and is certified by the esteemed Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) and the American Sommelier Association. Plonk Wine Merchants specializes in hidden gems from around the globe and every bottle in the store is priced below $30. Follow Plonk Wine Merchants on Twitter @PlonkOnline.