Keeping wine fresh after opening - Wine Shield versus Vacu Vin

Many people bemoan the lack of wine half bottles (375 milliters) on the market. It’s really the perfect sized bottle for a two people wanting just one glass of wine with dinner. But not many wineries release half bottles basically because, even though it’s half the glass, the bottle costs almost as much as a full 750-ml bottle. No financial sense there. There are options, like boxed wines (some good ones), but the quality — although it has improved dramatically — and variety aren’t earth-moving yet.

These limited options leave many with a half-drunk bottle of wine at the end of an evening (well, some people)…whose freshness might not make it ’til the next day. I’ve been using the Vacu Vin pump, a kitchen staple for many a wine lover, for countless years. It’s a gadget with a rubber stopper and pump that sucks the damaging oxygen from a half-full wine bottle. You can buy it on Amazon.com for about $12. But a new product called Wine Shield wants a sliver of that wine-saving love.

An Australian company, Wine Shield makes a food-grade, flippy-floppy plastic disc that floats on top of the wine to prevent oxygen from entering the wine. You insert it through the neck of the bottle with the help of the “Spear” and it comes to rest when it gains contact with the liquid inside. It’s clear, so it’s tough to see when you’ve placed it right, especially through a dark bottle. And I must say getting the shield in places isn’t as easy as the video demonstrates (below).

Skeptical of its efficacy, I did an experiment with Wine Shield, Vacu Vin and two controls: a screwcap and a cork. I opened a bottle of fruity California Cabernet Sauvignon, tasted a small amount and took notes of its flavors, aromas, etc. Then I divvied up the remaining wine into four different bottles, placing the Wine Shield in the original vessel. I tasted all the wines every day for five days (and did not refrigerate), since Wine Shield claims the wines will stay fresh for up to five days. The results:

Day one, 24 hours after opening:
Vacu Vin holding strong with similar aromas/flavors
Wine Shield holding strong as well
Recorked and screwcapped bottles are starting to lose their freshness in flavor and aroma

Day two, 48 hours after opening:
Vacu Vin’ed wine still remains fairly fresh
Wine Shield also tasting about the same as the Vacuvin’ed wine
Corked and screwcapped wines have lost much of their character

Day three, 72 hours after opening:
Vacu Vin begins to lose the fight – oxidation begins to set in
Wine Shield still has some flavor left and the oxidation flavors aren’t as prominent as Vacuvin
Corked and screwcapped wines are dead

Day four, 96 hours later:
Vacu Vin wine is completely turned over
Wine Shield starting to taste oxidized

Day five, 120 hours after opening:
Wine Shield not living up to the five day challenge. The wine is pretty much a hot mess headed for vinegar land.

So the results were a little surprising, and the Aussies figured out a cool way to keep wine fresh one to two days longer than Vacu Vin. But it might be difficult to justify paying $1.50 per Wine Shield when they cannot be reused (but are recyclable with the bottle), when a reusable yet not quite as effective option exists. However, it might be a good tool for Port wines and dessert wines which you can keep for a lot longer.

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