My tasting group & I are seeking to utilize small, 2-3 oz vials to extend the lifespan of our wines for the purposes of Advanced-level tasting. We have Coravin access but we'd like to extend our tasting windows with wines beyond what a Coravin can offer. We've heard of higher-level candidates using systems like this in the past, and we are looking for assistance getting it off the ground for ourselves. Does anyone have experience utilizing a system like this? Are there specific types of vials/closures that you have found success/failure with? Is it possible to create a vacuum for long-term (4-6+ months) storage inside the vials? Are there obstacles/challenges we might not be foreseeing in getting this off the ground?
Thank you in advance for any help/guidance you can provide.
Currently using these. Not as large as you're asking for, though. I've tried a couple of different lids, and like the rubber one on these the best. Number them and keep them in the fridge, then keep a journal or spreadsheet. I try and always purge the vials with argon before use as you would when bottling wine, and make sure to not leave more than a tiny bead of airspace (I usually spill some when I'm filling because I overflow).
This is the rack I use for them. Very basic, but works and didn't break the bank. Test tube holders can get weirdly expensive for some reason.
How large is your collection going to be? Seems crazy to me to have so many that you'd have a 4-6 month turnover. An MW in the area used ETS sample vials for his study. They're a little bigger, but they smell funny to me. Worked for him to get through his exam, though, so I can't argue with success.
I am skeptical of this approach. Sometimes it does work fine. other times the wine oxidizes. Wine picks up a lot of fresh air when you pour from bottle to vial/bottle.
*i should note that i used empty 375s and would just cork them, but i left no airspace and used fairly fresh corks, so i doubt that the seal was the issue.
It's not perfect, but it can be a useful tool. Just realize that oxidation can happen for a variety of reasons, do your best to minimize it, and be aware of it as a possibility so that the wines don't screw with your head if they are a little off.
I am just sharing my experience and opinion, and i am curious if others agree or disagree. i tried decanting into 375s while preparing for the advanced, and I had enough oxidation issues that i abandoned the approach. and i was only storing for a week or so tops! I am convinced that the aeration through funneling and pouring is enough to oxidize some wines.
My approach is to quickly pour a glass or two and then cork the wine and put reds back in the wine fridge and to put whites in the refrigerator (trying to avoid shaking and temp change). Then i try to drink the remainder within a day or two. This seems to have better results for me. obviously it is not a long term solution. For that, Coravin is the only way to go IMO.
Thank you very much for the information. I guess 2-3 months would be a more accurate window, with having a couple producers/styles of most/all classic wine styles at our disposal. When you say you purge the vials with argon, what are you using to do this?
Anyone use RePour for this purpose? It would likely require more than one stopper per bottle as you're not pouring a typical amount and therefore would need to absorb more oxygen.
The argon in a can...no idea if it's actually helping anything or not...
I used these extensively when working towards tasting exams, and found it very useful to extend the life of wines I was buying for blinds or comparatives. I found the 4 and 6 OZ bottle sizes to be the most useful, and I spent the extra $$ on the caps with the PE-cone closure, so that when I filled the bottle completely full, once I screwed the cap in the bottle would overflow and there would be no headspace at all. It is then important to keep them in a constant temperature location, as expanding and contracting liquid causes these seals to let in oxygen. If you are careful about that you can have a fairly long shelf life. As Keith notes, if you pour into the bottles then the splashing dissolves a LOT of O2 in the wine, and you will see oxidation fairly soon. For that reason, I always used siphon tubing to "rack" the wine from the 750mL bottles directly into the little bottles using suction and gravity so there would be no splashing and minimal O2 pickup. As Jeremy mentions, you can sparge the receiving bottle with Argon like a winery would a tank to protect from O2. A fair bit of time, but I always felt it was worth it...
There are quite a few people studying for advanced, and at least one studying for Master, that are using Repour for their tasting wines. When pouring one or two ounce glasses it would be best to switch to a new repour® around half way. Kevin Vogt had been using them since last July in his tasting room Wine Country Connections, Will Costello has been a vocal advocate since December. We offer 20% off first time orders to GuildSomm members, go to the member discount page for the link.
If you can get the restaurant to order, you can get cost down to $.69 per repour
I used them to great success. I bought 60+ of the 2oz clear vials. It is important to get the with the cone lined cap. I also bought circular stickers from staples, wrote the corresponding wine that was in the vial, and then stuck them to the bottom of the bottles. This allowed my wife to pull a flight of 6 and I could do a flight a day if I wished. I used this them conjunction with a coravin when I was studying for the MS tasting portion. I purchased what I though were all "classic" wines and had them lined up on a table, so my wife could pull from them. Behind each wine bottle was a 2oz vial that I had previously coravin'd a pour of the wine into. She would pull 3 white and 3 red vials for a flight and put them into either the white or red temperature control area on our wine fridge. Since the stickers were on the bottom, there is no chance of accidentally looking. I would pour a flight, time and record. After the flight was done I would then go back over what I said to confirm I didn't miss anything. I would then refill via coravin, the corresponding wine into the correct vial, making sure I left no or little air. Having all "classic" wines under coravin allowed me to compare a wine that I missed on my flight with the correct wine after my blind tasting. Comparative tasting wines that I confused was essential to my passing and I highly recommend doing it non-blind. Using the coravin was HUGE in cutting cost on wine purchases. You HAVE to make sure to purge the needle with gas, to push out oxygen, before inserting it into the wine. Otherwise you are injecting oxygen into the bottle.
Here are the vials I used
Do you think this could work just as well if one took the vials out of the equation and trusted a friend/partner/etc to pull from a coravined library of training wines?
Ditto on both Jim Rollston and Aaron Patrick's comments. I used specialtybottle.com, specifically for these bottles but it's important you call/email and specify the conical caps.
The 4 oz bottles I've been using allow you 5 portions (good for two to taste) and a bit left to taste out of the bottle. As most of these places offer quantity discounts, getting a few people maximizes the length of your dollar if you're buying quantity.
Provided you're scrupulous with ensuring there is no air at all in the bottle, I've found this method to be more resilient to oxidation than Coravin in my opinion. Yes, you'll pick up O2 on decanting into the bottles but most are whistle clean even months after bottling.
I used a method similar to Aaron's where I painted the bottom with chalkboard paint and used a chalk pencil to number the bottles. I then created a corresponding excel spreadsheet with whatever details your heart desires on there. Alcohol level, oak regime, lees regime, skin contact, etc. each corresponding to a sequential number that increasingly becomes meaningless to the bottler as you accumulate variety in the mix.
I'd also caution about your care of the caps. I had to ditch a ton of them, and a lot of expensive wine, after I'd discovered that washing them in my dishwasher was volatilizing some pretty gnarly petrochemical nonsense into the wine forcing me to pour out all the wine and order new caps. Hand wash warm water only, drain on paper towel, also the cones can be popped out and cleaned behind if need be.
I kept my reds at room temp and the whites in a white wine fridge and would try to bottle any leftovers that were very representative and not open too long as often as possible to keep the variety as high as possible.
It's also great to have your little btg program at your disposal should you want a glass or two of something killer you know you have kicking around.