Never order fish or sparkling wine on Monday.
Like waffles and popcorn, sparkling wine is best enjoyed right away. The minute you open a bottle, the wine starts to release all the trapped carbon dioxide that’s been dying to get out, and the bubbles keep coming until the wine goes flat. This sad, sad bit of science should be a rationale for always finishing the bottle of bubbly you start.
Each year, thousands of Americans order glasses of sparkling wine during the holiday season, only to get robbed of their share of those twinkling little bubbles. A bottle that helped celebrate Nutcracker tickets on Saturday remains a shadow of its former self for the sucker who orders some on Monday (or, Oscar Wilde forbid, Tuesday).
Sparkling wine gets its bubbles one of two ways. Finer bottles, such as anything over $15, have a dollop of yeast and sugar added right before they are finally corked and sealed. A tiny round of tiny fermentation ensues, producing the carbon dioxide bubbles. Cheaper sparkling wines are carbonated in much the same way as soda pop. The end result is the same—CO2 molecules dissolved in the wine, kept in the bottle by an airtight cork.
Is there any way to keep those happy little stars in the bottle? The top two ways to preserve wine at home and in restaurants don’t work with sparkling wine. (I won’t waste words on those bogus decorative champagne stoppers, which fail to fit most sparkling wine bottles altogether.) In my opinion, the Vacu Vin contraption ($13, www.vacuvin.com, also makers of the pineapple peeler), which you see in most wine shops, is a crock of shit. The system, comprising rubber plugs and a small hand pump, looks like a pathetic sexual device for wine and is supposed to remove all the oxygen from the bottle so that the wine stays fresh. Any nerd knows there is no such thing as a perfect vacuum, and this device is the opposite of perfect. It doesn’t matter anyway, because the device doesn’t keep the wine from releasing CO2 bubbles.
My ideal way to preserve non-sparkling wines is Private Preserve ($9 for approximately 200 uses, www.privatepreserve.com), which uses an inert gas that is heavier than oxygen. A squeeze of the gas into a bottle creates a blanket keeping the wine separated from the oxygen above. But Private Preserve doesn’t work on sparkling wine either, because the inert gas can’t keep the carbon dioxide from breaking through.
The Perlage System, a simple device developed by Seattleite Evan Wallace, solves both issues. You may have seen the device in bar refrigerators all over town: a dark plastic form that encases the average Champagne bottle like a glove. When closed over the bottle, the Perlage System releases carbon dioxide to force out and replace the oxygen in the bottle and to reintroduce pressure, keeping those good bubbles in the wine. I have had the nerdly pleasure of enjoying a bottle of my favorite Champagne (Camille Saves) after it had been stored for eight days in one of these contraptions. It tasted like the day it was opened.
That was all the evidence I needed to dub Wallace the patron saint of bubbly by the glass. As a pro, I adore this product because it’s foolproof and only costs a couple hundred dollars (you can buy a home version of the device for $295 at www.perlagesystems.com). Most restaurants charge a ton for glasses of sparkling wine because of all the waste. This invention not only increases their profits but ensures every customer gets what he or she paid for, whether it’s a fun little cava or a crème de la crème Champagne. Every restaurant worth a fig should make a New Year’s resolution to procure one.