Wine Preservation Systems Revealed
This all started in March 2020… I was holding virtual wine tasting for fun for employees at my company, just after the start of COVID lockdowns. So many people were sheltering in place alone and were asking how to best preserve the wine they couldn’t finish that night during the tastings.
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If you want to see which of the systems I tested are best for you, make a copy of this spreadsheet and follow the instructions to get a recommendation based on your usage.
Now the long story ... My research started with many mistakes:
Neglecting to open a control bottle for comparison
Purchasing poor quality wine that didn’t need preservation (“2 Buck Chuck”)
Choosing preservation systems haphazardly
Eventually after two failed attempts, I selected the top preservation systems on the market, spoke with their founders and representatives to ensure I was using them in compliant fashion and began the process … for a 3rd time!
What I found is that each of the systems I was using were great at something and have some value and place in the market. Here’s how I’d summarize each product tested:
Private Preserve. Private Preserve is an inert gas in a can that you can use to blanket your wine and protect it from further oxygenation after opening. This product (the original and first wine preserver out there) has been on the market for over 30 years. It’s simple to use and extremely inexpensive. Each can contains 120 uses of gas and that averages to 10 cents per bottle of wine that you preserve. It kept my wine drinkable for 3 weeks. If you will only store a few bottles after opening this is the most economical option. Spoiled wine starts to taste over ripe.
VacuVin. This system consists of a plastic cork and suction pump to pump the oxygen out of the bottle after opening. One cork can be reused (unclear how many uses it’s good for). The cost is averaged out to be 66 cents per bottle of wine. It only keeps wine nicely fresh for 1 week at best. Hence, it's unclear if it actually works better than just a cork. If you want to go more high tech than Private Preserve and don’t care that you are losing some freshness dates, VacuVin may be for you. But for the price and the preservation limitations this is probably not the best choice for most people. Spoiled wine starts to taste over ripe.
RePour. This is a replacement cork that claims to remove the oxygen from the bottle once opened. If the bottle is opened repeatedly you might need to replace the RePour as it can only act on so much oxygen before giving out. It costs about $1.80 per bottle of wine (corks are not reusable and only recyclable in bulk by shipping back) and can keep your wine drinkable for approximately 3 weeks. RePour is a fun device if you don’t mind the expense, want a week more than VacuVin will give you and you like cool toys but don’t want to spring for a Coravin. Spoiled wine starts to just loose flavor and aroma.
Coravin. Coravin is a device that allows you to inject an inert gas into your wine bottle using a surgical needle without ever removing the cork. There is an upfront cost and ongoing cost of gas capsules (currently not recyclable but they are working on that). Over time, price per bottle is approximately $2.10 including upfront costs. I have yet to taste wine that has spoiled with a Coravin, and the longest I’ve stored a Coravin’d bottle so far is 6 months. If you use it incorrectly, you can introduce contaminants and oxygen that will degrade the wine so correct usage is important. Some tips that are easy to miss: Puff argon through before inserting into a cork, Allow cork to warm to at least 60 degrees before considering it ready to re-chill, Clean Coravin needle by flushing with hot water after each use.
Then there is the Eto… a $160 flashy looking device that can only be used with one bottle at a time and is hard to clean. I think this is a great device if you don’t care about money, like shiny new things and pretty centerpieces, only need to keep wine fresh for 2 weeks (I’m making an assumption here) and never have more than 2 bottles in use. In other words, I’m not seeing the value of this product.
Lastly, note about Pungo. A Coravin copy-cat but you can only expect 2 weeks of freshness. For the price and the results, I don't recommend.
Process for Comparison
Now that you know a bit about the products I tested you might be wondering how I compared them? I purchased 6 bottles of the same Thomas Fogarty Estate Pinot Noir. I labeled each based on the preservation system being used (one was opened and not preserved, one was saved to compare with the winning system after all was said and done). Each week over 4 weeks I conducted a blind tasting of each and took notes. Then after getting my impressions I revealed the system. Each bottle was treated the same way: only opened long enough to pour the wine, returned upright to the fridge afterward. Feel free to email me or message me on social media if you’d like more details.
Which System is Right For You?
Now which system is right for you? I’ve put together a decision matrix to help you with that! Make a copy of this spreadsheet and follow the instructions to get a recommendation based on your usage. But the bottom line is that Private Preserve is the best value entry level product and will keep your wine fresh for 3 weeks (results can vary based on usage though) and Coravin (traditional models, not the Pivot) is the only product that can keep your wine good for months and years. It has the added benefit of also being the only system you can use in a wine cellar or wine fridge as you can store bottles horizontally.
Note on the Coravin Pivot: I'm not a fan of the Pivot for consumer use due to 1) product price and capsule price yields no savings over traditional Coravin, 2) storage can only be upright, 3) freshness time is diminished. However for restaurant applications it might be great (they go through wine faster and need to pour quickly).
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If you choose to purchase some RePour corks, you can save 10% and get free shipping by using the discount code WINESKIPPING on the manufacturers' site. Select SKUs (single 4-packs, 10-packs, 4-pack bundles, and 72-packs). Happy shopping!
Ah! And to make sure you serve your wine at the best service temp, please read this post on storage and service suggestions.