A Complete Guide to Wine Preservation

Pouring wine

An open bottle of wine can last for weeks, even longer, if you know how to preserve it. You can enjoy a glass or two from the bottle without worrying how it will taste when you come back for another pour a day or so later. Knowing how to save wine will not only open up your options, it will save you money (for more wine, of course).

Keeping an open bottle of wine fresh comes down to science. However, it does not have to be difficult, tricky, or expensive. The key is understanding why wine spoils and how various tools and technology fight that process. 

We’re going to demystify wine preservation and teach you how you can pour as much wine as you want, whenever you want, and save the rest for later. 

Oxidation

Once a bottle of wine is opened, oxygen seeps in and begins the process of oxidation. Oxidation occurs when oxygen in the air comes in contact with the wine, triggering a series of chemical reactions. These reactions typically benefit wine in the short term. The first few hours of exposure help to open up the flavors and aromas in the wine. After that, around 24 hours or so, the oxygen starts to degrade the wine. Putting the cork back in the bottle will not stop the oxidation process. The oxygen is already in the bottle. To preserve the wine, you have to get the oxygen away from the wine. 

corkscrew in bottle

Wine Preservation

Wine savers, or wine preservers, as their names imply, help keep wine fresh and prevent it from spoiling. They are designed to significantly slow down or prevent oxidation. Numerous solutions on the market aim to keep an open bottle of wine tasting as fresh as the day you opened it. They do this by either removing oxygen from the bottle, replacing the oxygen with something else, or preventing oxygen from making further contact with the wine. 

The majority of commercially available wine savers fall into one of three categories: gas, vacuum, or seal. They each have pros and cons. Some provide longer-lasting protection, others are easier to use, and some are less expensive. 

Gas-based

There are several food-safe, inert gasses used in wine preservation but argon and nitrogen are the most popular and have been proven effective, with argon being the “gold standard”.

How it works

When sprayed into a bottle of wine, the gas displaces the oxygen, forming a barrier between the wine and the air. The bottle must then be sealed tight to keep the inert gas in and the oxygen out.

Pros
  • Provides long-lasting preservation, up to one month or more
  • Displacement of oxygen in the bottle
  • Virtually fool-proof (argon only – is heavier than oxygen allowing it to naturally settle on the surface of the wine creating a protective layer)
  • Well tested in the food and wine industry (argon preferred)
  • Does not react with the wine – smell or taste unaffected
  • Affordable solutions available (spray canisters)
  • For more on Nitrogen vs. Argon, see below
Cons
  • You have to purchase new/replacement gas canisters or capsules
  • Gas can dissipate over time
  • More expensive solutions require costly replacement capsules and needles

Where gas wine savers shine

Spray canisters are great for a bottle of wine you plan to open and finish within one to four weeks. They are also affordable - $10 to $30. However, If you want to save wine for several months or longer, opt for a system that does not require you to pull the cork (note: these systems can be expensive - $100 or more and use small capsules of argon). 

Argon vs Nitrogen:

When used properly, both will extend the life of an open bottle of wine for a week or more. However, research has shown that argon is more effective than nitrogen, albeit slightly more expensive, resulting in better quality and freshness. One reason for the superior performance is the difference in weight. Nitrogen is slightly lighter than air. Argon is heavier than nitrogen, and the air in general. Unlike nitrogen, it doesn’t need to displace all of the oxygen. It will always settle on the surface of the wine, making direct contact and protecting it from any remaining oxygen in the bottle. 

Note, it is uncommon to use nitrogen only to preserve wine. Most solutions that use nitrogen incorporate argon as well (and other gases like carbon dioxide). Nitrogen is used primarily to reduce costs.

Example gas wine saver process.

Vacuum/pumps

One of the more familiar systems for wine preservation designed to create an airtight vacuum.

How it works

A stopper is placed inside the wine bottle and an electric or manual pump is used to vacuum, or suck, oxygen out of the wine bottle. 

Pros
  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Doesn’t “run out” or require replacement parts
  • Includes a stopper that sometimes doubles as a pourer
Cons
  • Cannot remove all of the oxygen inside of the bottle
  • Relatively short preservation period (typically a few days)
  • Need multiple stoppers if preserving more than one bottle

Where vacuum/pump wine preservers shine

Vacuum wine savers are best for wine you’re confident you’ll revisit within a day or two. These devices also travel well and include a stopper, which would be helpful if your cork breaks.

Seals/blockers

There are a few different designs that fall in this category, but the most common include balloons and lid-based carafes.

How it works

An object (e.g., a balloon or lid) lays on top of the wine, preventing oxygen from making contact with the liquid. Some devices are made for use with the original bottle of wine, others require you to first pour the wine into a carafe.

Pros
  • Doesn’t “run out” or require replacement parts
  • Fun and interesting (balloons)
  • Nice presentation and can double as decanter (lid-based)
Cons
  • Not as easy to store
  • Can only preserve one bottle at a time
  • Does not displace all of the oxygen
  • Relatively short preservation period (typically a few days, some claim to work for longer)

Where seal/blocker wine savers shine

The seal/blocker design works best when you aren’t looking to re-seal (or recork) the wine bottle or lay it on its side. They should be used when you are only looking to preserve your wine for a few days (check with the manufacturer as some claim to have an extended preservation window). They are differentiated visually, thus make fun conversation pieces.

Wine Preservation Technology Comparison Chart

Technology Preservation
(Days)*
Pros Cons
Gas
(Argon)
7-30+ -Industry tested and preferred
-Affordable options available ($30 or less)
-Works on multiple bottles
-Argon is proven to be more effective
-Canisters or capsules "run out"
-Works with air tight seals
Vacuum/pump 2-5 -Affordable ($30 or less)
-Does not "run out"
-Can't remove all oxygen
-Custom stopper required
Seal/blocker 3-7 -Novelty
-Does not "run out"
-Can't remove all oxygen
-Limited storage solutions
-Good for one bottle at a time

*Averages based on reported data. May not capture all devices in category.

With so many options, how do you decide which wine saver solution is best?

While effectiveness is the most important, there are a few additional factors you may want to consider when selecting a wine preserver:

  1. Time: How quickly do you plan to finish the bottle of wine? If you’re certain you’ll finish within three days or less, any of the above solutions should meet your needs. However, if you aren’t sure, or if you know it will be a week or more, the safest solution is a gas-based wine preserver, preferably one that uses 100% argon gas. 
  2. Cost: How much are you comfortable spending? And, how much did the wine you are preserving set you back? Commercially available/retail solutions can range from ten to hundreds of dollars. If your budget is tight, vacuum wine savers and gas canisters are the most wallet-friendly. The advantage of gas canisters, like ArT Wine Preserver, is they are low cost (typically less than $20), long-lasting, and extremely effective. For expensive wines ($100+), the safest bet is to opt for a solution that uses a fine needle to inject the gas and doesn’t require you to pull the cork. Note, these systems typically cost $200 or more. 
  3. Audience: Are you looking for a conversation piece or a solution that is cool to display? Unique and novelty solutions like the balloon or the carafe offer that “cool factor” you may be seeking. Some of the more expensive argon gas systems come in a range of colors/finishes and double as cool display pieces as well.

In the end, you may decide that two solutions work best for you. We’ve found that argon canisters give you the best bang for your buck, and we’re not just biased. Industry professional testing and hundreds of rave reviews have confirmed that ArT Wine Preserver’s easy-to-use, patent-pending dose of pure argon gas keeps an open bottle of wine fresh for weeks in many cases. It preserves up to 40 bottles so you don’t have to worry about frequent replacements. 

If you like wine - keep it fresh

Other tips to keep wine fresh

  1. Make sure the bottle opening is tightly sealed
  2. Store wine at the proper temperature
  3. Keep wine out of direct sunlight
  4. If the bottle has been opened, have a labeling or solution to keep track of what is open and for how long

Check out this article for more tips on how to keep wine fresh.

Still have questions or need more help preserving your wine, contact us. Ready to keep your wine fresh? Shop ArT Wine Preserver