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The Wine Shield Trials

Like most wine bloggers, I regularly receive offers of wine samples, books, wine trinkets, stemware, different accessories like wine stain removers, aerators, and even a tchotcke that supposedly ages wine in just a few minutes (only imparted a metallic taste for me).  As a natural skeptic I tend to view all wine trinkets and accessories with a jaundiced eye.

Recently a company called Wine Preserva, an Australian firm, contacted me about trying their wine preservation product, the wine shield — a thin plastic disc that, when inserted into an open wine bottle, creates a barrier between the wine and the outside world thereby reducing oxidation and keeping the wine fresh for consumption over the course of several days.

The wine shield, post-use, and spear (thingie used to get the disc in to the bottle).

There was a time in the not too distant past when an unfinished bottle of wine was an unknown phenomenon in our house.  Now, with a newborn, my wife and I rarely have time (or, um, energy) to enjoy a full glass, much less finish off an entire bottle in a night or two.  It’s routine for a bottle of wine opened here at Chateau Morgan on a Friday night to last well in to the next week.

Although I am happy with the vacu vin and argon gas system we use at home, the wine shield interested me because I’ve been looking for a practical, travel-friendly alternative to my small vacu vin to preserve wine while I’m on travel.  In the past, when I was traveling nearly every week, I would pack a small vacu vin and bottle plug to keep a bottle of wine drinkable throughout the week at the hotel.

Since the wine shield appears to be travel-friendly — small, thin, individually wrapped — and claims to preserve the taste and nose of a bottle of wine for up to five days, I was looking forward to testing this product.

I conducted three rounds of testing with the wine shield just to complete this experiment.  I scrapped the first experiment due to a technical problem with the wine shield disc. The second attempt ended prematurely due to over-consumption.  The third and final round — a more controlled yet-far-from-scientific test with two bottles of the same wine — was completed without operator/experimenter error or technical problems.

Chester Gap 2008 Merlot ($19)
My first impression of the wine shield usability was not positive.  I had difficulty getting the wine shield out of the wrapper and in to the bottle because the outer edge of the wine shield disc was sealed in the seam of the plastic wrapper, which caused two of the tabs on the outer edge to tear when I tried to separate them.  The wine was great on the first night open, but the aromatics and flavor dropped off considerably after the second night, as one would expect from leaving a bottle of wine open on the counter with no closure.  It’s obvious that the wine shield can not shield if damaged.  Damn, that was over 1/2 bottle of Chester Gap — one of my favorites!   Round one: cheap wine tchotcke 1, wine shield 0.

Hahn 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon ($12)
I opened this bottle along with several other Cabernets as part of a get together we hosted for #CabernetDay. I poured a couple glasses, put in the Wine Shield and set the bottle aside with the intent of tasting over the next few nights.  This was one of the more popular Cabs of the evening so it ended up empty by nights end.  To that end, this bottle didn’t last long enough for me to reasonably conclude on the effectiveness of the wine shield.    With baking spice, dark berry, eucalyptus components throughout, this wine offers nice QPR at the $12 price point.
Note:  Received this wine as a sample.

For my third and final wine shield trial, I went with a more controlled format with two bottles of the same wine — the White Hall 2009 Cabernet Franc.  One bottle was preserved with the wine shield, and the other with a vacu vin and a schtickle of argon.

White Hall 2009 Cab Franc (~ $13)
I choose this particular Cab Franc because this is one of the few reds that I happened to have two bottles of the same vintage at a reasonable price point.  I also happen to enjoy the wines from White Hall because they are consistently solid.

Night 1 — The Beginning:  

A separate taste from both bottles — purple in color, this wine smelled of raspberry, violets, earthy components, and hints of leather.  No methoxypyrazine (herbaceouness, or bell pepper aromas) that I’ve come to expect from many east coast Cab Francs lately.  This is a lighter example of Cab Franc with a reasonable (and appreciated) 13% alcohol level.

Night 2 — Neck and Neck:
As is the case with many reds that I open, I liked this wine better the second night.   The wine shield wine displayed brighter fruit — raspberry, cherry, and even hints of spice that weren’t apparent on night 1.  Same finish — short.  The bottle sealed with the vacu vin exhibited more dark cherry components.

Night 3 — A Noticeable Difference:
A noticeable difference between the two.  A lipstick-like cosmetic aroma that was not present in the first two nights, was lingering in the bottle sealed with the vacu vin.  The glass from the wine shield bottle continued to hold it’s own with aromas of red fruits still prominent with acidity and tannins still intact.

Night 4 — The Experiment Ends Here:
Noticeable decline in both wines — loss of aromatics and flavors, and the acidity is MIA — more so in the bottle sealed with the vacu vin.  Although the wine shield claims to preserve the aroma and taste of wine up to five days, I didn’t see any point in tasting another night as both bottles had declined and the winner in this case was obvious.  The bottle preserved with the wine shield faired better overall — stayed consistent, better aromatics, flavor and balance — than the bottle sealed with the vacu vin (which is surprising).

Conclusion:  The wine shield is simple, easy to use and is travel friendly.  Most importantly, it works (well, at least as far as I’m concerned from my less-than-scientific testing).  I could see this product being placed for sale in Vino Volo airport wine bars and/or in airport and hotel shops.

Since the wine shield is intended to be a single-use product, and ranges in price from 60 cents to $1 per use (depending on quantity purchased), the price seems reasonable when used to keep a $20+ bottle of wine.  Not sure this makes sense to use for that Tuesday night $8 bottle.

For more information about wine shield in the US, visit WineShield.com.  In Australia, visit Wine Preserva.

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