From Coravin to vacuum pumps, the world of wine preservation is not short of innovations. But do they work? Jacopo Mazzeo reveals the results of his year-long experiment in this seven-part series
In controlled environments, oxygen is wine’s best companion; it allows the liquid to age gracefully inside the bottle and helps release wine’s aromas when decanted. But leave the liquid in contact with the air too long and the oxygen will slowly deteriorate aromas and flavours, as well as affect texture. This means that once opened, a bottle needs to be consumed quickly before it spoils.
Bad news for the on-trade. With people drinking less, but trading up in quality, a good by-the-glass programme can make the difference between a lucrative sale and a jug of tap water. Today, plenty of devices claim they can keep your wine fresh for longer once opened, which would allow a venue to increase its by-the-glass offer.
However, are they all as effective as they claim to be? And most importantly, are they suitable for a restaurant, bar or pub environment? To answer these questions, we put a diverse range of some of the most popular preservation systems for both still and sparkling wine to the test, in a trial that took – no shirking – nearly a year to complete.
How it works
ZOS is an oxygen-absorbing stopper that works with cartridges.
The purpose of the trial was to test the systems’ suitability for use in a professional environment. Consequently, wines were deemed unfit for service once showing any noticeable change, regardless of their suitability for personal use. To make sure the experiment’s results were empirically meaningful, each system was tested on a range of different wines. During the trial, all wines were stored at a cool room temperature. Different samples of the same wine were always tested side-by-side on the same day.
A light indicator reveals when the device is absorbing oxygen and when the bottle is an oxygen-free environment. The manufacturer claims it keeps the wine fresh for up to eight weeks, with each cartridge lasting for about 15 bottles depending on usage. The device requires batteries for the lights to work.
Short-term preservation of about five days.
ZOS yielded the most uniform results. Most wines kept very well till the fourth or fifth day, when slight changes made them fit for private consumption only. Most wines oxidised well before the manufacturer’s eight-week threshold. Two were still in good drinking condition by the end of the seventh week.
ZOS needs good staff training, as the cartridge runs out quickly if left outside its case even for short periods of time. In fact, although we made sure to always keep it either inside the bottle or inside the case, the cartridges ran out quite quickly. Another downside is the price as ZOS needs batteries too, on top of the cost of cartridges and of the device itself. Although it does work, we see ZOS being more suitable for private use.
ZOS Halo Preserver: RRP £49.99; two-cartridge pack: RRP £14.99, Birchgrove Products