Ask LH: How Can I Make My Wine Last Longer?

Dear Lifehacker, I am trying to think of ways to extend the shelf-life of opened bottles of wine. When I do drink wine, I enjoy a quality bottle. Often, I will have one glass of wine, and then not drink wine again for several days or even a week. Usually by the time I come back to the wine it is oxidised and undrinkable, and I just end up pouring expensive wine down the drain.

I have tried vacuum stoppers, refrigeration, vacuum stoppers and refrigeration; no matter what I try, after three or four days the wine has spoiled.

Recently, I resigned myself to just buying the better quality cask wines and avoiding the issue altogether. But now, I've had the idea of putting a couple of bottles of my nice wine directly into a cask bladder, and then drinking it over a month or two. So, after I finished a 1.5L cask, I rinsed out the bladder with water, let it drain as much as possible, and then filled it with two bottles of more expensive wine, being careful to ensure that as little air as possible was trapped in the bladder. So far it's been a week, and it seems to be working. Any thoughts on this or other strategies?

Thanks Cask At Hand

Picture by Steven Depolo

Dear CAH,

Intuitively, what you're doing seems like a bad idea, or at least no better than the other alternatives. You're likely to end up with some water in the wine, you're exposing the entire bottle to air in the process of transferring it, and you won't have the same equipment in place as a professional wine producer for filling the cask bladder. The higher volume of wine you're dealing with might slow the process of oxidisation a little, but ultimately that's going to happen no matter how you store it, and I don't know that you'll get a month out of the experience.

Unlike you, I've had success with vacuum stoppers in keeping red wine for a few days. With white wine, which more often than not has a screw cap these days, refrigeration seems fine for me too. One problem in trying to compare different methods is that you can only get an accurate idea of how well it works if you do the same thing repeatedly with different bottles. It's all too easy to give up and say "that didn't work" based on just a single experience.

But you know what the bottom line is? If you're happy with the wine you're drinking this way, that's what really matters. I suspect you won't really know how well this rebagging process works until you've tried it with a few more bottles — you might find that it's not as impressive with another grape type or brand.

Experience ultimately suggests to me that wine, once opened, should be consumed within a few days. If you only want to drink wine occasionally, one possible solution is only to do so when you're dining with friends or family — that way, the whole bottle will get consumed even though you'll only have a glass or two. I'm sure readers will have other strategies to share in the comments.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    Good work not answering the question, Lifehacker. Next time, just say "I don't know".

    "How can I extend the life of this nice bottle of wine that I plan to enjoy a glass at a time?"
    "Drink it all at once or with friends."

    You could at least have suggested that they go to a winery to ask a professional sommelier their opinion. When someone has a problem that really irks them, often they don't think of the most immediate solution.

      LOL'ed. So true. LH just wants our opinion, being politically correct and never ask us to do so.

    From a few years working in good wine bars I'd recommend the Vacu Vin for an easy cheap solution. About $15 for 2 rubber stoppers and a little vacuum pump to remove as much air as possible fromt he bottle, lessening oxidation.
    At our bars we use these to keep the 'by the glass' bottles in tip-top shape

      The asker stated that vacuum products were already used. This article has many links proving the lack of effectiveness of these systems.

      It recommends instead blasting the bottle with inert gases (Nitrogen, Argon etc), specifically a product called 'Private Reserve' and then corking with a non-porous material, much like the Enomatic systems used at Wine Odyssey and Gazebo in Sydney.

    Huon Hooke - the SMH/Age wine write says essentially, nothing works. So, this post suggesting "drink up" is correct

    A good option is to track down something like Private Preserve ( which is essentially a a spray can of argon gas. when you spray it into the bottle, it displaces the air in the bottle and prevents oxidation. The argon is inert so it doesn't react with the wine.

    It sounds like the OP has found the best solution. The only issue I can see is flavour taint from the plastic.
    What you're aiming to achieve is minimal exposure to oxygen and a bladder is going to achieve that as you're only exposing the wine to Oxygen whilst transferring to the bladder.
    From then on, the Oxygen in the minimal amount of air in the bladder will oxidise with the ethanol, but will also react with the tannins (which are good Oxygen scavengers) and improve the flavour of the wine.. Once that Oxygen is reacted, there is no more ingress of air into the bladder and no more oxidation of ethanol to acetic acid, which is what you'e trying to avoid.
    With the bottle evacuation systems, you're exposing the wine to oxygen every time you pour a glass.
    The only other possible option might be to buy one of those CO2 powered bike pumps and spray CO2 into the bottle as you pour, then immediately evacuate the bottle with one of those pump and seal devices..
    CO2 is heavier than air so should push out Oxygen from the bottle, the evacuation will just assist that process.

      John Warburton's link points out that wines lose volatiles to any atmosphere (ie preserving wine is not just about preventing's also about retaining flavour chemicals), so once again, the Wine Bladder seems like the best solution.

    Do what radiation oncologists do - irradiate the wine in a linear accelerator and PRESTO! - perfectly aged (and non-radioactive) wine. BTW this is no joke,..

    A friend has recommended Wine Shield and swears it works well. I haven't tried it yet but the basic idea is you insert a barrier into the opened bottle which expands to cover the wine surface and prevent oxidation. Don't know but could be effective for stopping the volatiles evaporating also. The Huon Hooke article mentioned above suggests they work quite well as does putting half a bottle immediately into a 375 ml screwcap bottle if you are only drinking half the bottle.

      Wine shield works for me. I get 3 days out of a bottle of red now, and that's all I need from one bottle. And they are cheap and easy to use.

    I believe in the "drink it all" remedy :) but do have a serious suggestion, having worked in the wine trade. It's somewhat inelegant, so never did this on commercial premises, but perfect for at home. Use an empty Schweppes mixer bottle (e.g. tonic, soda) rinsed very thoroughly - the ones with the metal, screw tops. Fill right to the top (i.e. no air). Keep no more than a week. Better than any of the commercial products. Am surprised most people haven't heard of this (disclaimer: didn't read any of the linked articles, don't know if it's been mentioned). You're welcome fellow drinkers! :)

      My liver likes this idea the best. I told my liver to shut up - I'm drinking it all.

    I have found decanting into a smaller bottle works well. They are easy to clean once finished to. When decanting try to fill the bottle as much as possible leaving no room for air.

    TWO bottles in an empty cask? NO way - open one bottle ONLY and start -drinking should last a few days - and better than transferring into a cask. When bottle empty then open the Second bottle......
    Last time I drank cask - the wine was already on the turn...

    Easy solution-move to Victoria. They have no idea about wines, so anything tastes good there!

    Flushing with C02 works for beer to prevent oxidisation, should also work for wine in a general sense. You could mod a sodastream to push in C02 & displace the 02. I can achieve this with my C02 bottle and a Keg King Carb Cap.

    I'd look on some homebrew forums, someone may have hacked something together, I'm thinking a rubber bung with the C02 inlet tube and an 02 output valve/hole type thing. Homebrewer's typically understand the science better and are crafiter than poncey spectator-only wine drinkers!

    Good luck!

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