It's the age-old problem. You open a bottle of wine, and you don't drink all of it. How long can you keep it before it turns into raisin-flavored syrup or vinegar? Wine preservation sprays are one of the best answers yet to this question. But which one should you buy?
At Argovino, we've been using Private Preserve to extend the life of the bottles we taste. Recently, at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York, we met Gary Gottfried of Vineyard Fresh, a new competitor, and he gave us a sample of his product. Both sprays come in cans and supply inert gases to replace the oxygen that sits on top of wine in the bottle. Using them is simple; you just shoot them into the bottle before re-corking. Private Preserve has a long, thin tube to deliver a mix of nitrogen, argon and carbon dioxide. Vineyard Fresh has a pointed nozzle and contains only argon.
We decided to test them via a quasi-scientific trial. First we bought two bottles of the same wine - Los Nevados Malbec 2011 - from a local shop. We chose an organic wine to be sure it had the minimum of preservatives (just sulfites) already in the bottle. We opened both bottles at the same time and poured tastes into identical glasses. Then we swiftly re-corked both bottles after spraying them with the competing products. Immediately afterward, we placed the bottles adjacent to one another in a dark cupboard.
Next, we tasted. The first wine, re-corked with Private Preserve had whiffs of cinnamon and ripe black cherry in the nose, but in the mouth it was thin and tannic, with only faint hints of the black cherry and malbec's frequent note of cacao. The second bottle, re-corked with Vineyard Fresh, was no more concentrated than the first. It initially appeared somewhat less aggressive, but repeated tasting, changing the order a couple of times, revealed it to be just as tannic. Eventually, however, both bottles settled down and allowed their flavors to emerge a bit more.
These were decent malbecs, no great prizes but fine for an outdoor barbecue. How would a week's rest after opening affect them? Seven days later, we removed them from the cupboard to find out.
The Private Preserve bottle had a much more enveloping bouquet than before, with red cherry and smoky plum giving way to aromas of dark chocolate and ink - all characteristic aromas of malbec. In the mouth it was still aggressively tannic but somehow fuller, with a continuation of the fruit flavors and that wisp of smoke.
The Vineyard fresh bottle had a very flat nose at first, though heavy swirling in the glass revealed some mild fruity aromas. More rounded flavors were present here, too, in a way that was direct but less multifaceted. That said, these flavors had more staying power than the ones in the Private Preserve bottle. While that wine seemed to lose some of its vim after a few minutes in the glass, this one stayed pretty solid.
Here are our quasi-scientific conclusions. Private Preserve seems to aid the development of the wine, but this means that something is happening in the bottle. This process may be great for a wine during a week's storage, but we wouldn't necessarily want to leave it for a month. Vineyard Fresh, on the other hand, offers a wine that's closer to the one we originally opened. We're guessing that a month down the road it would be pretty similar, too.
So you have a choice when picking a wine-preserving spray: drink the bottle sooner and possibly enjoy it more than when it was new, or have the freedom to drink a basically unchanged wine later on. Maybe it's time to pick up a can of each? Salud!