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
Genii is a sparkling wine preservation system. It comes with two parts: a cap and a carbonating device. Once the bottle has been sealed with the appropriate closure, the carbonator is employed to insert CO2 into the bottle. The valve in the closure shuts off automatically when the pre-set pressure of 50psi is reached inside the bottle. The system needs CO2 cartridges, which are expected to last for around 10 to 12 bottles.
The manufacturer claims that Genii keeps the wine fresh for four weeks after opening.
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.
Any venue, however, given the cost, it’s only advisable for restaurants and high-end bars with a premium sparkling wine offer.
Medium-term preservation of about five days.
Both the wines tested kept very well till the 10th day. Left unopened for a few days, however, the subsequent pour displayed a marked CO2 smell, similar to artificially carbonated sparkling water, although this disappeared after a few seconds.
After the second week, the CO2 had been mildly integrated into the wines, altering their texture. Carbonation was still present well beyond the four weeks, by which time, however, the aromas appeared significantly tuned down or developed.
The four-week threshold is advisable only for personal consumption, however, the system works remarkably well for the 10-day period. This is enough to make it worthwhile for any high-end restaurant and bar willing to offer superpremium sparkling wine by the glass.
The real downside is that the system is a little bulky and can be noisy, especially when pumping CO2 into the bottle, so needs to be used away from guests. The sample caps don’t fit certain bottles such as Gosset, Laurent Perrier NV Rosé and Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve NV (though it works on all other Charles Heidsieck). However, the manufacturer informed us it is testing a cap to fit these and other odd shapes.
Genii (three caps and carbonator): RRP £295; 10-cartridge pack: RRP £95; spare cap: RRP £65; spare carbonator: RRP £125, Genii