Food and Wine Events

Preserving Wine

Last week I was at Grapeseed in Bethesda and I noticed the bartender using a cool electric contraption to suck the air out of the wine and preserve it longer. I think she was getting the bar ready for closing and as she was putting each bottle away, she's put a special cork in the bottle, stick the top in the device, and you'd hear its motor turn on. I was intrigued by this device, and ever since I've been looking for one for I find that I'm turning myself into an alcoholic, drinking whole bottles of wine because I can't bear to let the leftovers sit over night.

Well, I wasn't able to find the device, but I've found something else that might do just as good of a job. It's basically an aerosol can filled with nitrogen gas that spray it into the wine bottle, removing most of the oxygen, which ruins the wine. While that oxygen is your friend for the first three or four hours, while you "let it breathe" after that, it becomes wines worst enemy.

Of course, there are always those hand-pump vacuum sealers, but I've tried using them before and they never seem to work very well. I'm going to try to find these sprays somewhere around here, but if I can't find it, I'll just order some off the Internet.



My experience with these sprays (though limited) has been that they work about as well as the vacuum sealers. Which is so-so. I use a vacuum sealer (since it doesn't have to be replenished like a spray would and I'm notoriously bad for things like that) and I find that it works decently as long as you really suck the air out. The one that I have has 2-3 stoppers that you place the sealer on top of and pump with your hand to remove the air.

All of these products are going to have problems to some extent that can't be overcome regardless of the product. Opening the bottle and pouring out some increases the surface area of the wine since bottles are wider at the bottom than at the neck. The more surface area, the more area the wine has to absorb oxygen. At this point the wine is going to oxidize somewhat regardless of how much (or how little) oxygen is left in the bottle as the oxygen is in the wine itself and would be difficult/impossible to extract. This is why winemakers (at least good ones) take care to try and minimize the time it takes to get the wine from the barrel/vat to the bottle, to minimize the contact with oxygen. As well, regardless of the product, removing all of the oxygen from the bottle will be difficult.

Didn't really mean to get in that much detail :-) The morale of the story is that if you're expecting the nitrogen sprays to perform miracles... don't. Even with the electronic system they had I'm sure there's a bit of oxidation going on overnight.


How was the meal at Grapeseed? I had probably one of my top five meals there, though I've heard from others that when they went, it wasn't that good. How did you find it?


I wasn't incredibly impressed. I want to go back again, and give it another try before I give a judgement, but I didn't find the food to be very interesting or mind blowing like the restaurant's fans say. And those who compare it to Komi or even Restaurant Eve...I'm not sure where that comes from.


Thanks for the advice Mike. I wish there were better individual bottle systems than there are out there. The only other thing I could find was these:

But short of getting one of these like Sonoma has:

I don't think I'm ever going to find anything that works perfect. It's just that somedays, I just want a glass and not a whole bottle you know...


If you drank wine in box you wouldn't have this problem. :)

Seriously, I have had two of the vacuum contraptions the one I purchased from Williams-Sonoma did a much better job than the cheaper one I had purchased elsewhere. If I had to recommend one, I would recommend that one. Although, I think drinking more is probably the best idea.


don't knock the wine in a box until you've tried it! we've recently discovered "delicato's" shiraz and it was half decent (after it aired out, of course), and it lasts about a month in the box if you don't finish it right away!

catherine has a wide range of accessories, etc. They have four pages of wine "preservation" methods. I seem to recall that Consumer's Reports tested these devices and gave them all a pass. Nonetheless, wine gadgets can be fun...

I, too, was pretty unimpressed with Grapeseed on my first try. My second visit was much better than the first -- but no where near the Komi/Corduroy experience. Have you tried David Craig yet?


No I haven't. That's probably my next stop in Bethesda though.

750 mL

Your best bet to preserve a wine is to refrigerate it. Cool temperatures slow down the oxidation process.

I think vacuum pumps are entirely worthless. If you are going to use them, remember to repump every day until the wine is gone. Inert gas is probably the most effective device, but hardly worth the money. I think both products interfere with the aroma of a wine.

If you don't think you'll finish a bottle, don't decant it. Once you expose wine to that much air, it's a race against the clock.

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