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Dear Dr. Vinny,
A lot of wine-preservation systems like the Coravin use a "blanket" of argon gas to prevent further oxidation of the wine. Does that "freeze" the wine's development at that point, preventing further maturation via oxygen exchange?
I'd love to use a Coravin to sample my older wines and ensure they're not approaching "past peak" status, but I'd hate for that to prevent future development. Has anyone run a side-by-side experiment of standard wines vs. those preserved under argon?
—Mark, Cincinnati, Ohio
For those not familiar, the Coravin’s signature feature is that it allows you to pour a taste of wine without opening the bottle. A hollow needle pierces the cork, and extracted wine is replaced with argon gas to preserve the remaining wine.
The Coravin sure seems to be a game changer in the wine-preservation world, and I've answered a lot of questions about it, from how sediment might impact it to whether or not it can cross-contaminate other wines with TCA taint to actual health concerns.
You ask an interesting new question. I’ve used a Coravin personally and feel like when I come back to the bottle, the wine is showing as how I remember. But what if I still want the remaining wine to age for years more? I checked in with Coravin, and a spokesperson wrote to me, “Since the Coravin Wine Preservation Opener keeps the cork in place, wine continues to evolve the same way that it would in an un-accessed bottle. Some of the chemical changes that occur in wine, such as the breakdown of acids, don't require oxygen at all. Others do relate to oxygen that is naturally transmitted across the cork over time. Accessing a bottle with the Coravin Wine Preservation Opener does not impact these chemical changes.”
During a wine’s aging, only a minimum level of oxidation should be happening with a proper seal. Phenolic compounds binding together and dropping out of suspension, color changes and secondary notes emerging are not dependent on oxygen and shouldn’t be affected by the presence of argon. That said, it seems unlikely that there would be absolutely no difference between a bottle aged under argon vs. one aged in the traditional method, but I'm not aware of any side-by-side comparisons that have been conducted.
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