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The Virtues Of Inert Gas

3 December 2011

It may surprise some of you (family especially) to learn that when I open up a bottle of wine to taste for this blog, I do not usually finish the entire thing. I love to have a glass or two while cooking and a glass or two with my meal, but I can usually down half a bottle at best. What to do with the rest?

I used to try to save wine by simply putting it in the refrigerator, but after 24 hours (or even 12), the wine oxidizes anyway and becomes unpleasant. Realizing the folly of this technique, for a time I attempted to drink all the leftovers. Waste not want not! But though the wine was not wasted, I certainly was.

Finally, some patron saint of the liver introduced me to inert gas. Of all the ways to preserve wine after it’s been opened, inert gas works the best. With an inexpensive spray can, you can replace most of the air in the bottle with a blanket of argon, carbon dioxide and nitrogen. The gas blanket is heavier than air, preventing oxygen from reaching the wine and significantly slowing the process of oxidation.

Even vacuum pumps, which purport to suck all the air out of a bottle, always leave some oxygen knocking around, and there is nothing to prevent it from interacting with the wine. The notes on the back of my Private Preserve canister add that vacuum devices “strip out bouquet (volatile esters),” though I’m not convinced inert gas preserves the bouquet entirely intact, either. Even so, it’s the best choice we’ve got.

Recently, I left a half-filled bottle of Von Stiehl Cabernet Sauvignon on the counter for a week, since I was out of town and unable to finish it. When I finally did pour myself a glass, the wine tasted surprisingly good. It didn’t reach the heights of flavor it hit when I first opened the bottle, but it was perfectly adequate to sip while attempting my first cassoulet.

If you find from time to time that you have some wine left over, don’t leave it alone in the refrigerator without any protection, condemning it to death by oxidation. Lead your wine into a gentle slumber under a comfy blanket of inert gas.

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2 Comments to “The Virtues Of Inert Gas”

  1. Nice write-up. Good to know that stuff works. Especially like “but though the wine was not wasted, I certainly was.”

    “Inert gas” seems like some pretty shoddy marketing, and also strikes me as scientifically clumsy (given that CO2 is not particularly inert–I mean, plants chemically react it into food for heaven’s sake). And who the heck wants to be thinking about any sort of gas while drinking wine? A “comfy blanket” of flatulence ensconcing my beverage? Warm–yes. Palatable–no.

    • Thanks! And you’re absolutely right – there has to be a sexier way of marketing this. Neither “inert gas” nor “gas blanket” fills me with feelings of romance.

      Any ideas for alternatives? My suggestion is “Preservative Perfume.” 🙂

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