Whether you’re drinking or cooking with wine, you may not go through the entire bottle at one time. Sure, you could use a wine stopper to keep your wine fresh(ish) until you’re ready to finish it, but what if you don’t have one? As it turns out, there is a proper way to recork a bottle of wine. Here’s what to know.
How long does a bottle of wine last after it’s open?
Once a bottle of wine has been opened, if it is stored properly, it typically remains drinkable for between two and five more days, depending on the type of wine. Sparkling wine is a bit different: Though it will likely be flat by the next day, it can stay fresh enough to drink for up to three days, if recorked correctly.
How to recork wine
First, let’s start with what not to do. If you have any intention of drinking the leftover wine, don’t leave the bottle open. Even if you threw away the cork and don’t have a wine stopper, covering the top of the bottle with a piece of cling wrap or foil and securing it with a rubber band isn’t ideal, but is better than nothing.
And now, how to properly recork wine:
Inspect the cork
Before attempting to recork your wine, take a close look at the cork itself. Is is damaged? Are pieces falling off? Is it crumbling? Is there a hole that goes all the way through the cork from when it was opened?
If any of these things are true, then you shouldn’t attempt to reuse the cork—unless the damage is genuinely minimal, in which case you might be able to get away with wrapping it in wax paper. (More on that in a minute.)
Put the wine-covered side back in
If your cork is intact, resist the urge to put the “clean” side into the bottle of wine: That’s the side that’s been out into the world, and has come in contact with who-knows-what. You’re better off putting the wine-stained end of the cork into the bottle.
To reinsert the cork, put the bottle on a steady, sturdy surface, then angle the cork so the wine-stained end is in the bottle, and the clean end is resting on the lip. From there, press down on the cork while twisting it, until the cork is about halfway into the bottle.
Use wax paper
Even if you still have the original cork and it’s intact, it probably has expanded since you first removed it from the bottle, making it harder to get it back inside. But you can get around this—and help ensure that the cork continues to stay together—with a little wax paper.
Cut a piece of wax paper roughly the same length of the cork, and wide enough to wrap around it once (but no more). Next, put one end of the cork in the center of the piece of wax paper.
Place the bottle on a steady, sturdy surface, then insert the covered end of the cork. Gently push it down, using a rocking motion—don’t twist it, or the wax paper could wrinkle and tear—until the cork is about halfway into the bottle.
Put the bottle in the fridge
Once the bottle of wine is recorked, there are a few other things you can do to prevent the wine from oxidizing too quickly. First, store the bottle standing upright, in order to minimize the surface area of wine exposed to oxygen. Also, cooler temperatures help slow down the oxidation process, so your best bet is keeping the recorked bottle of wine in the refrigerator—yes, even if it’s red.