A question I field at almost every tasting I conduct is... "how long can I 'save' my leftovers"? This is a great question and one I don't mind answering again and again because I keep learning new things through trial and error myself. I'll report on a couple of basics first and then give you a story from my recent experiences to provide a little perspective, too. 1. Always store leftovers in the fridge, red, white, pink or bubbly! The cold climate in your icebox helps the wine's components remain fresh and lively.
2. It's worth investing in a cheap-o Vacu-Vin pump. Yes, I said it. For a few dollars, you can pick up a plastic wine pump that will give your wine remarkable 'life' if combined with fridge time. It comes with a couple of bottle stoppers specifically designed to collaborate with the pump and suck the air out of your wine bottle. This prevents the wine from getting stale or, worse, completely oxidized (depending how many days it'll be hanging out with your milk carton).
NOTE: Bubbly requires a special champagne stopper; it has little arms that clamp down on the top of the bottle to prevent the cork from popping out. You will not be able to pump out the air of this bad boy (or you'd pump out the wine's bubbly mojo), but it will give you another day or so in the fridge.
CULINARY TIP: Left over champagne is particularly fabulous if you are cooking any kind of fish, shelfish or otherwise. Put a little bit of the bubbly in the skillet to sear your shrimp and you won't need an ounce of butter. I've done this even when the near-empty bottle has been in my fridge for weeks and had a good result. Give it a go!
The "experts" say that if you simply leave a bottle in the fridge with the cork tucked deeply in the neck (no pumping) you can drink the wine fairly reliably the next day. (White) wines that are higher in acidity (like Sauvigon Blanc) will hold up better and longer, too. (Red) wines with more tannin tend do better as well. Those components in wine act as the backbone of the wine and allow it to age (while in the bottle). Once open, those components help the wine 'stay together' or stay fresh and tasty, if you will.
My opinion is this - with pumping out your wine, you can do very well for several days if not weeks. No joke. It depends on the type of wine, of course. But I have found (mid-priced) well-made wines do surprisingly well. Case in point: late June I opened a bottle of Graham Beck's 2007 Gamekeeper's Reserve Cab. I only had a glass and a half or so and then pumped it out and fridged it, thinking I'd have company the next night to polish it off. Well, I ended up going out to dinner the next night. After that I had fish on the menu and opened a bottle of white, then it was the weekend and I was out again, etc. Eventually it was ten days later and I headed out of town for 4th of July for another week. Once home again I was in the mood for a glass of wine and remembered the Gamekeeper still in the fridge. I decided it was worth pouring into a glass and seeing what was what before just dumping it out and opening a new bottle. SUCCESS! The wine did remarkably well despite my neglect. The fruit was still full, the acidity intact and the dry tannins had mellowed a bit (bonus!). I was amazed - and thrilled - how well the wine held up after 2.5 weeks!
So let my little inadvertent experiment be a lesson to us all: don't relegate a wine to "cooking" or "dumping" status before you've given it a quick taste. You may be SOL, but then you're no worse off either, are you? Just make sure you give yourself half a chance and pump it out and get it on ice.
Have you had a wine life (longevity) surprise lately? What wine was it that held up beyond your expectations?