We all love drinking wine but what do you do when you realize you won’t be able to polish off that bottle of Merlot you opened and you will have extra? It is a grim realization and no one wants to come to that conclusion but it does happen. To the rescue is the wine stopper. Wine stoppers are devices meant to replace the cork of an opened bottle of wine and slow down oxidation. But does it work?
Do wine stoppers work? Wine stoppers work well at slowing down the oxidation process from unfinished wine and replacing the original cork in preparation for refrigeration. If you seal a wine stopper on properly, you can generally get an additional week of storage on a bottle of opened wine before oxidation kills it. If you can shove the cork back into the mouth, you can accomplish a similar time frame but wine stoppers are much easier and more widely used.
Wine stoppers are no miracle devices and they won’t completely stop the oxidation-caused degradation of wine but they can slow it down a lot. With a well-fitted wine stopper, you can extend the storage life of your wine and drink it later. Let’s take a much closer look at storing opened wine with a wine stopper and why it can be such a smart decision if you can’t get the cork back in.
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Wine Stoppers: Preserving Opened Wine
Once you pop the cork, the clock starts ticking. To store opened bottles of wine, you can simply shove the cork back in which is much harder than I made it sound or use a good wine stopper to seal off the outside world.
A wine stopper won’t stop the oxidation process but it will slow it down some. Before refrigeration, I would recommend applying a good wine stopper to the bottle and you’ll get a few extra days of good wine.
Best Wine Stopper
The Vacu Vin Original is the best wine stopper on the market in my opinion. These things are very inexpensive compared to much pricier options but effectively remove all oxygen inside which delays the oxidation process and keeps your wine robust for much longer. This vacuum-sealing stopper uses a manual pump that you will use to suck out of the oxygen protecting your wine from its harmful effects.
There are so many wine stoppers on the market but the one I trust and so many other serious wine drinkers trust is this one. I’m not going to guide you down the wrong path and have you spend way more money than you need. Forget all the rest and go with this one. You can get one for under $20 and it will be as effective as something 4 times that much.
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Types of Wine Stoppers
Generally speaking, there are 3 types of wine stoppers. The 3 categories are decorative stoppers, pouring stoppers, and vacuum-sealing stoppers.
These stoppers are usually made to resemble a cork and are typically made of some type of rubberized surface designed to seal tightly with the neck of the wine bottle. These often feature a decorative pull that can be personalized. The pull is designed to remove the device from the bottle when ready to pour.
These types of wine stoppers make great gifts because they are so decorative and because they are inexpensive. As far as effectiveness goes, they do provide a nice seal but some oxidation will still occur.
Generally speaking, you can extend the life of your wine an extra day or two using these wine stops. These types of wine stoppers are the most affordable but least effective options for storing opened bottles of wine.
Pouring wine stoppers are designed to seal tightly with the bottle and have a small opening or spout by which you can pour wine through when you are ready to drink some more. These wine stoppers are typically made of metal or plastic and cost more than cheaper decorative wine stoppers. As far as effectiveness in extending the storage life of wine goes, they are comparable to decorative wine stoppers.
They can extend the life an additional day or two but they have the added benefit of being able to pour out wine so you won’t have to remove the wine stop until you are throwing your empty bottle away.
Vacuum-Sealed Wine Stoppers
These are the high-quality options out there. These types of wine stoppers are designed to use battery-power or manual pumping to suck oxygen from inside the bottle harmlessly away from the wine. While these types of stoppers may lack in elegant design, they make up for in sheer practicality.
They are more expensive than decorative or pouring stoppers but they are much more effective at slowing the oxidation process. Using a quality vacuum-sealed wine stopper, you can extend the life of your opened wine up to a week.
How long does wine last with a wine stopper?
If you use a quality wine stopper, wine can last 5-7 days in a refrigerator just fine which will extend its life and make it possible to still enjoy quality wine days after popping the cork. It should be noted that because of the oxidation process, after a couple of days, your wine will undergo so character changes that will get more noticeable as that seventh day nears.
Long-Term vs. Short-Term Use
For short-term wine storage, a wine stopper is ideal. When I say short-term, I’m referring to a time frame under a week after popping the cork. The oxidation process will slow some if you put on a quality win stopper but it won’t stop it. Every day that passes after you pop the cork, your wine will soften and round out.
Many people like their wine this way whereas others prefer their wine fresher. After about a week with the wine stopper, your wine will taste flat or off. It will no longer carry that same robustness of flavor and notes.
If you plan on finishing the bottle within a few days of opening, a wine stopper is perfect for you. I would not recommend storing wine longer than a week after you pop the cork.
There isn’t a wine stopper on the market that can stop the oxidation process well enough to preserve wine this long. Before you open that next bottle of wine, make sure you can finish it off within a week. If not, it will go to waste. It simply won’t be worth drinking after that long and it doesn’t matter how expensive your wine stopper or how much care you put into preserving it.
What Do They Do?
Wine stoppers are essentially small devices that are used to close leftover wine bottles before refrigeration. Standard wine corks can be very hard to put back into the mouth of the bottle so to compensate, specialized wine stoppers have been developed to act as that temporarily seal to slow down the process of oxidation which inevitably will kill your wine.
If you can’t put the original cork back into the mouth of the bottle, a wine stopper can functionally take its place and seal off the bottle from outside elements and prevent oxygen from entering. If you can’t finish the bottle of wine you opened and can’t plunge the original cork back in well enough, a wine stopper can be a great tool to extend the life of your wine a few extra days. Beyond a week, your wine won’t be any good.
So Do Wine Stoppers Work?
Wine stoppers do work well and are certainly better than nothing. Wine stoppers will not completely stall the oxidation process which ruins wine but it will at least slow it down. You may get an additional day or two out of your wine if you are using cheaper pouring or decorative wine stoppers and as much as a full week if you invest in a vacuum-sealed wine stopper that sucks out all of the oxygen from the bottle.
The bottom line is as soon as you pop the cork on your wine, the clock starts ticking. Adding a good wine stopper won’t stop the clock but it will slow down how quickly the time ticks off.
Some people try to shove the original cork back in but this is tough and can cause the wine to crack releasing a steady stream of oxygen into the wine. A wine stopper isn’t perfect, but it is a heck of a lot better for the job and will help extend the life of your wine.
A study by Jacob & Neal (2011) found that wine stoppers do work but storing wine in cooler temperatures did more saving opened wine. A study by Mas & colleagues (2006) also yielded interesting results.
Are Wine Stoppers Needed?
If you have don’t finish your bottle of wine, don’t sweat it. You can still preserve the bottle a couple of extra days without much fuss. A wine stopper is the most official way to save your extra wine but it isn’t the only way. If you can manage it, shove your cork back into the bottle’s mouth can work about as well as a wine stopper.
Neither option is ideal and the cork re-insertion can be challenging and unreliable. The wine stopper will always be easier and more effective. You do not need a wine stopper but they will sure make your life a lot easier. If you can polish off a bottle in one sitting, do it. If you are having company over and can finish the bottle, you are good.
Neither a wine stopper nor reapplying your original cork will save the wine from the effects of oxidation. You may give your bottle of wine an extra week at the most but that is still better than not getting that time. A wine stopper is not required but it certainly does help.
A wine stopper is something worth investing in if you enjoy wine. You may not use it every time you drink wine but you will certainly get plenty of run out of it. A wine stopper can not stop the oxidation process completely and your wine will ultimately start degrading once the cork is popped, but it can make a world of difference in wine flavor and quality a day or so later.
Decorative and pouring wine stoppers can give you an additional couple of days whereas a high-quality vacuum-sealed wine stopper can give you up to a week.
It should be noted that even with the highest quality wine stopper, your wine will undergo some character changes within about 3-4 days after the cork is popped. Wine will usually round-out and become softer after it oxidizes.
Scientific Literature Referenced:
Jacob, D. J., & Neal, J. A. (2011). Efficacy of Preservation Methods Used for Wine by the Glass Programs in Restaurants. Journal of Culinary Science & Technology, 9(4), 212-227. DOI:10.1080/15428052.2011.627234 (via: Taylor & Francis)
Mas, A., Puig, J., Lladoa, N., & Zamora, F. (2002). Sealing and Storage Position Effects on Wine Evolution. Journal of Food Science, 67(4), 1374-1378. DOI:10.1111/j.1365-2621.2002.tb10292.x (via Wiley)