CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- From time to time, friends ask me how to keep wine not consumed at one sitting fresh for later drinking. I must admit this is not a situation I have ever personally experienced, but I do have some suggestions.
Wine is usually bottled in a 25-ounce glass container with an average alcohol content of between 10 percent and 15 percent. This amount of alcohol serves to protect the wine from spoilage in the first few hours after the bottle is opened, but is not sufficient to keep the stuff fresh over an extended period.
This is particularly true for white wine, where only the grape juice is fermented. Red grapes, which are fermented with the skins and seeds, have a longer shelf life before giving way to the ravages of oxidation.
A real-life experience proved that point for me. On the occasion of a multicourse wine dinner, I decanted a bottle of Barolo and forgot about it until the next day. To my surprise and delight, the wine was heavenly. Unfortunately, wines with less body and staying power (both red and white) would have been transformed into something tasting like turpentine.
Unlike chili, beef barley soup or meatloaf, fine wine does not improve over several days in the refrigerator. In fact, wine will deteriorate rather quickly if you don't take certain precautions.
An open bottle of wine has a schizoid visitor: oxygen. When a wine is uncorked, the oxygen that invades it initially does wondrous things for the aroma and can actually serve as a catalyst to unleash the complex flavors that have developed over time in the bottle. Like a good friend, oxygen (Dr. Jekyll) has a positive influence on wine -- up to a point.
Unfortunately, after several hours of uninterrupted contact with oxygen (enter Mr. Hyde), most wines begin to fall apart, even if you put the cork back in the bottle. So, here are a few tried and true tips that should help keep that undrunk wine tasty for a day or two.