Searching For The Holy Grail
For wine lovers, preserving their favorite vino can be a quest that borders on obsession. The problem is that when you pop the cork (or twist the cap) and start pouring, you are exposing the wine to oxygen. That begins the oxidative process, attacking the high qualify molecules and promoting bacterial growth.
Ironic, isn’t it? As you open a bottle of robust red wine, you might put it in a decanter or use an aerator to help the wine “open up” by introducing oxygen. That same oxygen that helps in the initial experience, can take down a perfectly good half-finished bottle you are trying to save for another night.
The wine may taste stale or develop the odor of fingernail polish. We’ve tried various types of corks and other closures and devices that manually or automatically pump the air out of the bottle. We drew the line on one product that required you to insert a floating plastic disc into the bottle – it was designed to minimize contact with the wine. Maybe so, but we decided we didn’t want some funky piece of plastic floating in our bottle.
In general we’ve found that a red wine might last two or maybe three days after the initial opening, especially if it is refrigerated. A white wine can last longer, maybe four or five days if refrigerated.
The gold standard of wine preservation is Coravin, a device which allows you to pour wine without removing the cork and preserves the remaining wine with a blanket of inert Argon gas. However, the price tag of Coravin can exceed $300 –so for most of us, it is just wishful thinking.
We were recently introduced to ArT18 a product that promises to bring Argon gas wine preservation to wine lovers at a very reasonable price tag – a mere $9.99 per can. We were anxious to give the system a whirl.
Calling it a system may be a bit presumptuous. It is a can of Argon gas along with a cork. The cork isn’t necessary for the system to work and the ArT18 team specifies that it is for aesthetic purposes only. I misplaced their cork with the dozen or so we had floating around and ended up using the first cork within my reach.
When you first heft the can, you might wonder what’s up. The can feels empty – but indeed it is filled with Argon and can be used up to 130 times. I’m not sure how you tell when it is empty, but I still have more than 100 uses to go.
My initial test was with a bottle of Locations wine. This is a wine label that focuses on producing blends that are representative of an entire country. Green Dragon and I popped open a bottle of Locations I, which is the Italian blend. We each had a glass, maybe a tad more, and then I decided to give ArT18 a whirl.
To use it, you simply aim it into the bottle neck and give a one to two second burst. I then put a cork in it.
Fast-forward five days. I took part in an online tasting of Location wines. This time it was Italy – I, France – F, and Spain (E for Espania). This was the ideal opportunity to contrast two bottles of Italian red, one five days old preserved with ArT18 and the other freshly opened.
The ArT18 can proclaims that it can maintain the wine profile for weeks. Would this claim hold up? The first bottle had been sitting on my kitchen counter for five days. This, I felt, would be a true test. I already knew that my refrigerator can help extend wine life. But what about ArT18?
I sampled the just opened bottle – nice juicy berry flavors with blackberry and maybe light vanilla. I then sampled the ArT18 bottle. Whoops. The bottle had started to turn and I could taste the oxidation. My first effort was not a success.
Hold the phone! My testing wasn’t over. I had three nice bottles of Locations wine and that was beyond the capacity of me and the Green Dragon to finish in a day – so I “gassed” the bottles up. This time I made sure to give it a full two-seconds.
The next day, we had an impromptu wine tasting at our house. I had a couple of whites and a reserve Cab France. I set out the Locations wines, but was ready to grab other bottles if these had gone bad. I opened the trio of bottles and the wine was as fresh and aromatic as when I opened them the previous day.
This obviously wasn’t the same as our five-day test – but normally there would be some degradation over a 24-hour period, especially when the bottles are sitting on the counter in a 74-degree kitchen. This made me wonder if during my initial test I didn’t give a long enough spritz.
My conclusion is that ArT18 can indeed have a significant impact on wine preservation. By placing an inert blanket of Argon gas between the wine and air, the wine gets a degree of protection. ArT18 won’t replace Coravin. Coravin is a more ideal process, with the cork firmly in place the whole time, the effectiveness of the Argon is increased. For $9.99, however, this is a very affordable entry into a scientific method of preserving your vino.
Another interesting claim is that the aromas are preserved as well as the flavors. Also of note is that the ArT18 system can be used for coffee beans, spices and other items that benefit from reduced oxygen exposure.
Why does this all matter? Ryan Frederickson, the GM of ArT18, points out that this will allow consumers to explore higher price point wines. It also allows you to enjoy wine by the glass without the fear of the remainder spoiling.
ArT18 will continue to undergo testing here at Vino-Sphere world headquarters and we’ll provide an update on what we find. We’ll just have to wait until we find an unfinished bottle of wine – a rarity around here. Initial results are positive and at about 8 cents per use, I’d encourage you to purchase and experiment yourself.
Full disclosure: We received this product as a marketing sample.