It's rare that I'll open a bottle of wine without the intent of finishing it. I don't drink alone, but I like to make sure that if I'm going to open a bottle, the friends who are with me are ready to empty the bottle over the course of our evening together. However, when we get distracted from finishing the bottle, I end up using the leftover wine to cook, or dumping the dregs. I'm not often in the mood to drink the same wine two nights in a row--I like to mix it up!
I was asked, however, to fight my natural instinct in order to review this wine accessory, The Wine Doctor. It's a sleek pump that comes with stoppers that indicate when the air has been removed from your unfinished bottle of wine, with the aim of preventing wine-ruining oxidation before you can finish the bottle at a later date. It's easy to use (insert stopper, place cylinder on top, and pump until the red bar disappears), pretty enough to leave on the counter, and at $25 a pop, it's not too pricey for an everyday wine drinker.
So does it work?
I tasted a pinot noir one night, along with my boyfriend and a friend he had visiting. We talked about the wine and what we tasted when it was freshly-opened. I was familiar with the wine's profile already, and it delivered on my expectations: full of acidity but medium-bodied, good fruitiness and mild tannin. We fought the urge to pour ourselves a second glass, and I sealed the top of the now-half-full bottle using the Wine Doctor stopper. It was slightly awkward, both because the up-and-down pumping motion with a silver cylinder skews a bit pornographic, and because I kept pinching my fingers in the groove where the two cylinder portions meet. But I'm not the most graceful person, and once I figured out that I should probably move my hands away from the seam, it was much less painful!
The red disk in the stopper seemed to disappear much too quickly for the oxygen to have been completely removed from the bottle. It turns out the red disappears only when there's a seal between the stopper and the bottle, which happens on the first or second pump. At that point, the bottle can be lifted off the table by the stopper, but there's still air in the bottle that will continue to oxidize the wine. You need to keep pumping until it gets reeeeeeealllly difficult to pull up on the pump--there will still be oxygen in the bottle, but it's going to be a lower level than before.
The next day, my boyfriend and I revisited the pinot noir. The stopper came out with less effort than I thought, making me think that the seal wasn't as perfect as it claimed to be, but the wine was still delicious. The fact that it had been open for 24 hours had deepened the fruit flavors and smoothed out some of the bright acidity, making it a more rounded and lush wine. Having had this wine before when it hadn't been sealed with a Wine Doctor after opening, I was not expecting it to be as enjoyable as it was. Without the Wine Doctor, the opened wine had been more akin to vinegar, albeit marginally smoother, as I expect from an oxidized wine. I don't doubt that the accessory helped preserve the wine in a better state for our second visit.
Again, I'm not usually a fan of leaving a bottle of wine unfinished. But if you find half a bottle left after your nightly drink, using the Wine Doctor would be a great option for keeping that wine good for your glass the following night! It's particularly useful for fans of big, earthy, tannic wines that need some time to open up and smooth out. Young Californian petite sirah and Lodi zinfandel, even young French Chateauneuf-du-Pape or Italian Brunello--these will be excellent to visit a day after their corks are removed. The Wine Doctor will help preserve that flavor. To me, that sounds like it's worth the price!