How to Make Wine Open Bottles of Wine Last Longer with Argon Wine Preserver
In our first article, we will dive into some of the basics of inert blanketing and how this technology can be used to make wine last longer using argon gas, through an argon wine preserver.
Although we will focus on how inert blanketing technology can make bottles of wine last long, inert blanketing is also used to preserve wine at wineries, for at home winemakers, and preserving food as well as a variety of other applications. Let’s start with the basics.
What does the term Inert Blanket mean?
Inert is a term that generally refers to a substance that is chemically inactive. In practice, the term is used to describe substances that do not combust or react readily with oxygen.
Common inert gases are Argon, Helium, Neon, Xenon, and Nitrogen/Carbon Dioxide*. If you remember your old periodic table, (as you should), you will remember there is a group of elements on the far right known as noble gases. The noble gases are Helium, Neon, Argon, and Xenon**.
What makes noble gases special? They have a full set of outer shell electrons that make them extremely stable. So stable, in fact, that even in the presence of elevated temperatures or light they will not react.
What does this mean? It means noble gases are so stable they do not react with other elements or molecules.
The term inert blanket refers to technology that provides a protective layer of inert gas, like a blanket, over another substance to prevent oxidation (or to prevent reactions with other substances found in the atmosphere such as nitrogen, water, and carbon dioxide). For the purposes of this article, we will mainly focus on inert blankets used to prevent oxidation.
*Nitrogen and Carbon Dioxide are not true inerts but can act as inerts in certain systems, more on this below
Why use Inert Gases? What is bad about oxidation?
Inert gases are used mainly to prevent oxidation through an inert blanket. Oxidation is a chemical reaction in which oxygen found in the air (~20% of the air is oxygen) reacts with a substance (such as the organic compounds in wine) and changes its chemical makeup. This means the product may have an undesirable acidity, flavor (if a food or beverage product), viscosity, and/or other physical properties.
It should be noted that many wines are designed to “age” through a slow (years) oxidation process by only allowing a very small amount of oxygen through the corks. This is a designed reaction that affects compounds such as the tannins in the wine, rather than undesired or side reaction such as the reaction that turns ethanol into vinegar. The specifics mechanisms are interesting and something we may cover in a future blog.
What are the best Inert Gases?
This depends on the application. The best inert gases for blanketing applications over confined products, such as wine in a bottle or vat, are denser than air. Denser than air inert gases include Argon, Carbon Dioxide*, and Xenon.
Density plays an important role to ensure adequate coverage, blanketing, of a system. Denser than air inert molecules will “sink” below the oxygen present in the air and create a true layer of protective gas. However most denser than air inert gases come at a higher cost.
A special note that although Carbon Dioxide and Nitrogen are often used as inert gases, they are not noble gases (such as Helium, Argon, and Xenon) and do not have a full set of valence electrons (which means they will not participate in a reaction because they are “happy”).
You can find detailed breakdowns below on the positives and negatives of each gas.
How are inert gases made?
Mostly by carefully harvesting the air we breathe at an Air Separation Unit.
ASUs uses cryogenic distillation to separate the air into its elements. These are some big words, but basically cryogenic means very very cold and distillation means separation of components by boiling point. It has been used to make purified nitrogen, oxygen, and argon since the early 1900s in what are called Air Separation Units (ASUs).
Because of the quantities of nitrogen found in the air, it is significantly cheaper than argon. This is why it is often used as an inert gas to save money. In another blog, we may discuss membrane and pressure swing adsorption technologies that can be used to make a low purity nitrogen mix (with carbon dioxide, argon, and other substances in higher quantities than in ASU produced nitrogen).
Are there any other methods to prevent oxidation of my wine?
Yes! Although preventing oxygen from touching wine by using an inert argon blanket is the best option, you can reduce the amount of oxidation that takes place by limiting the processes that cause the oxidation to take place. For oxidation to occur, needs oxygen to have contact with the wine and energy to push the reaction forward. If you can reduce the energy introduced to the wine bottle and reduce exposed surface area, you reduce the amount of oxidation that takes place.
Ways to save open bottles of wine other than inert blanketing (ArT Wine Preservation) includes:
Refrigeration lowers the energy in the bottle, thereby reducing the energy pushing oxidation reactions forward. That is because the higher the temperature, the faster the oxygen molecules will move and more often they will collide with the wine. More collisions lead to more reactions.
This does include red wines - although it should be noted that this was once considered faux pas. Red wine should be allowed to return to at least 55F (or producer recommended temperature) before consumption. Do NOT use heat as it may cause undesired reactions if localized heating occurs.
2) Remove sunlight.
Just like refrigeration reduces energy by removing heat, storing in a dark place removes the photo particles which add energy to the bottle and push the oxidation reaction forward.
3) Vibration Dampening
Shaking an opened bottle of wine is a debatably an effective manner in aerating a wine, because it makes for more collisions between the oxygen and the wine (though any wines with sediment will be well mixed…).
However - when storage and transporting wines that have been open you should avoid vibration and movement. This means don’t store it in places like your fridge door (or keep close to hinge of the door), above your garage, inside a car, etc.
4) Store upright
Some people may fight this one because corks need to be wet in order to ensure a solid seal. Although this is true for naturally corked closed bottles, we are currently talking about already opened bottles of wine. In which case a reusable cork with argon is the absolute best method of “sealing”, as it reduces the surface area exposed to oxygen even after pouring.
Leaving the bottle upright decreases the surface area exposed to oxygen compared to laying down. Lower surface area decreases the amount of molecular collisions between the wine and oxygen and therefore the rate of the oxidation reaction.
Providing an inert blanket will keep your open bottles of wine fresh. The best inert blankets will use denser than air truly inert argon. At ArT Wine Preservation we only use Natural Argon produced at ASUs to provide the highest level of preservation. We recommend following other tactics (Refrigeration, Remove Sunlight, Vibration Dampening, Store Upright) to ensure the best possible preservation.
What did you like about this article? What do you want to learn more about? Feel free to check us out at www.ArTWinePreservation.com or hit us up on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/ArTWinePreservation/
About the Author:
Ryan is the General Manager of ArT Wine Preservation. He is an engineer with a background in production and application of inert gases such as argon. Currently, he is bringing ecofriendly inert technology to consumers to reduce waste with self-recycling atmospheric gases. ArT Wine Preserver allows customers to enjoy wine and prevent