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Please save this wine

By Dave Buchanan
With the holidays here and people dropping by the house, I find myself at the end of the night facing one or more open bottles of wine and wondering how to keep them fresh and drinkable for another day. There’s an interesting article this week in the San Francisco Chronicle about the various methods of preserving wine once the bottle’s been opened. Reporter Janet Fletcher covers all the common methods of keeping the integrity of wine, ranging from vacuum pumps to inert gases to even freezing what’s left in the bottle. It’s particularly pertinent to me since it’s quite common around my house to have a couple glasses from a bottle of wine and then think, now what? I’ve been through a variety of exercises, including spraying nitrogen into the bottle, then re-corking and refrigerating the bottle. While that seems to do, well, okay, there’s still something gone because once that cork comes off, the wine starts changing. Of course, that doesn’t always stop me from drinking it anyway, but most times it either gets saved for cooking or goes down the drain. Fletcher talks to enologists, wine professionals and educators and her final summation says there really isn’t a good way to save that wine, no matter what Eric Burden tried to convince us 30 year ago. The main culprit in ruining a wine is oxygen, and while refrigerating a recorked bottle slows down the oxidation process, it isn’t foolproof. Fletcher cites Roger Boulton, a professor of enology and chemical engineering at the University of California at Davis, who said the colder the wine, the more soluble the oxygen and the easier it is for the gas to dissolve into the wine. But it’s still better, says Boulton, to refrigerate white wines and keep reds in a cool cellar than leave them at room temperature. And that’s what I’d do. I’d drink what I wanted, stick the cork back in the bottle and chill it. Then open it the next day and see if it’s drinkable. While I prefer to cook only with a wine I’d be willing to drink, you could save that leftover for cooking. Or if you and your significant other frequently find yourselves dealing with this problem, you might want to start buying some half-bottles. During a recent trip to Denver, I found a marvelous selection of 375ml bottles at Tony’s Wines and Specialty Beers on Dry Creek Road in Centennial, just north of C470. Because those smaller bottles are hard (impossible?) to find in Grand Junction, I’ll talk more about Tony’s selection of half-bottles next time. Meanwhile, if you know where someone can purchase half-bottles in Grand Junction, please let us know.