Pop & Repour: Preservation Experimentation – The Results

14 05 2019

By Peter Vetsch

I feel like I’m in a time warp.  In this optimistic post from early February, I advised that the blog had been silent for a while due to sickness, but that we were back up and running and that I was testing out a brand new wine preservation gadget, with results to follow shortly.  Well, after that post, about the excitingly simple Repour Wine Saver, the blog fell silent for a while due to sickness (an ear infection and then sinusitis this time, mixing it up from the bronchitis I had before), but I can now advise that we’re back up and running and that I can now report the results of said wine preservation test.  If this cycle repeats one more time, I’m quitting the wine-writing hobbyist biz, but if I can avoid antibiotics for the next hour or two, I will pass along this tale of experimental trials, inadvertent failures of the scientific method and the (largely) successful demonstration of Repour’s mettle, complete with an unexpected twist at the end.

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For those who don’t feel like clicking on this link to catch up on my prior introduction to this ingenious device, the Repour is a single-use one-stop-shop for wine preservation, a plastic bottle stopper stuffed with oxygen-absorbing material that actively removes any oxygen remaining in the bottle after each glass pour, leaving the wine inside pristine and untouched by decay-inducing air for (they say) “days, weeks or even months”.  It costs $3-4 CAD and lasts for the entire duration of one bottle of wine, regardless of how many times you go back to the well with that bottle.  I decided to test that marketing promise rather emphatically.  I opened three bottles of 2015 Alfred Merkelbach Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett from Germany’s Mosel Valley, drank a healthy dose out of each, then left one as a poor unguarded control bottle without any form of preservation beyond my refrigerator, dosed the second with argon gas (my personal pre-Repour preferred method of preservation) and test-drove the Repour with the third, revisiting them multiple times over the next month and tracking how well each bottle stood up.  My running preservation diary is below.  To refresh your memory, here was my initial tasting note on the Merkelbach Kabinett:

“The wine is a complete throwback to a bygone era, understated and filigreed in style, with canned golden apple, sea spray, petrichor and orange zest aromas giving way to a fragile yet enduring, heavily mineral palate, all quartz dust and steel.  The restrained residual sugar offers relief and key lime accents without weight, the acid is omnipresent but not cutting, and the finish is taut and straight-laced, perfectly formal and polite and German.”

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After 3 Days

Damn it.  All this work to follow proper preservation experiment protocols and it goes to hell almost immediately.  Since the Repour is a bottle stopper, I placed rubber bottle stoppers into my “No Preservation” and “Argon” bottles of Riesling as well before placing them in my fridge at the start of this journey.  When checking them prior to the Day 3 mark, I noted that some weird inexplicable internal pressure in the bottle had popped off the stopper of my Argon Riesling entirely TWO DIFFERENT TIMES, leaving the bottle open and exposed to fragrant fridge air for hours on end.  Theoretically, this shouldn’t have a major impact on this particular preservation method (argon works by being heavier than air and sitting in a blanket on top of the wine, so even without a stopper it shouldn’t escape), but I can already no longer claim that my test was pristine.  I don’t know how the real scientists do it.  You can tell I’m an Arts/Humanities grad.  Still, we persevere.  How was each bottle after 72 hours?

No Preservation:  This is still holding up remarkably well; many wines totally fall apart by this point without some kind of preservation.  The Riesling is starting to blur together aromatically and is losing a touch of sharpness on the palate, but it is still highly drinkable.

Argon:  Nearly indistinguishable from a newly opened bottle, with flavour delineation still fully intact.  It may be coming across a bit more open (as was the bottle, multiple times!) than it was before due to its bizarre internal eruptions, but it’s largely unchanged.

Repour:  Pristine.  No decline in acid sharpness or overall precision that I can detect.  This is the tightest and cleanest expression of the bottle so far.  Nice start, Repour.

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After A Week

No Preservation:  Some oxidized sherried notes are starting to waft up on the nose, bruised fruit and old banana and stale cake, and the palate is starting to pixellate and devolve, but this is STILL somehow holding on — most wines would be floating upside-down at the tops of their tanks by now.  German Riesling outlasts.  What a bottle.

Argon:  Clearly more life and verve, and especially more power and acid on the palate, than the non-preserved wine.  To me it seems like the initial inadvertent extra exposure is still having some continued effect, as the Riesling isn’t quite as fresh or as piquant as it started, but it’s not getting worse.

Repour:  Still the lead horse, and still tasting exactly the same as the first time I tasted it, with no static muddying the frequency as of yet.  Impressive.  This thing works, for sure. For most people and on most occasions, this is the extent of time for which you would ever preserve a single bottle, and for such uses, Repour emphatically delivers.  But since I was promised “weeks or even months” in the sales literature, we continue, because we can.

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After Two Weeks (Now Half-Empty)

No Preservation:  Unsurprisingly, this is now flatter, mushier, rounder, and more and more like a stepped-on banana…but it STILL definably smells like a German Riesling, and could still clearly be identified as such blind.  What the hell.  This wine is immortal.  Most wine is immediately drain-worthy after two weeks of exposure.  Even so, its threads are fraying, and it’s starting to taste pretty painful, particularly leading into the now-mealy, clammy finish…but this experiment would come across much more effectively if this thing would have just died like I expected of EVERY wine after this long.

Argon:  Fruit is still fresh, the wine as a whole is still vivid — I don’t notice any difference whatsoever from last week.  The wine hasn’t lost any further steps, hopefully suggesting that it has stabilized after its wardrobe malfunction out of the starting blocks.

Repour:  This bottle remains so well-preserved that the wine actually still seems a little closed off…after two weeks open, it could use some air to fully show itself!  When Repour says “weeks”, I’m starting to believe it.

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After Three Weeks

No Preservation:  THREE WEEKS COME ON — how is this wine still a thing without a shred of preservation??  It isn’t supposed to be possible to defy oxygen, and the degradation that comes for all of us, but I can’t honestly notice any difference between this week and last for the Merkelbach.  German Riesling is a force to be reckoned with, and old-school Mosel Riesling made by octogenarians can obviously just hang out forever without dying.  Nosferatu.

Argon:  Status quo.  Even with a major air infiltration to start, this hasn’t lost any further ground; the clubhouse leader’s preservation technology works.

Repour:  This is starting to flatten a bit, with coppery, sherried, caramelized notes seeping into the aromatic profile and the fruit flavours gaining a shade of papery oxidation.  There is a distinct difference between this week and last week, to the point where this is perhaps slipping behind the argon bottle now, although it is still neck and neck.

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After A Month (Almost Empty)

No Preservation:  This bottle has finally, mostly lost its will to live.  It smells sort of sickly sweet and weirdly disjointed, and for the first time in this process it is actually unpleasant to taste.  I thought it would be vinegar by two weeks ago, so I can only salute a battle magnificently fought.  Well done, soldier.  Deutschland, Deutschland über alles.

Argon:  In a groove and sailing on — its initial air-infiltration hiccup behind it, this almost tastes better now than it did at a one-week mark.  If I was asked blind how long this bottle had been open, I would say less than two days.  As long as your stopper doesn’t inexplicably get exorcised from the bottle, argon will work for you.

Repour:  I think we’ve officially hit Repour saturation point.  With very little prior warning, this Riesling now smells like a mixture of paint, malted chocolate and sherry, tastes fully oxidized and yet sharp, and even has notably deepened in colour to the naked eye.  It is (to my palate at least) all of a sudden somehow clearly in worse shape than the unpreserved bottle now (how??).  Perhaps the moral of the story is that once Repour is done, it’s DONE; thankfully it will accomplish its mission in 99% of the cases where it is used before that happens.  “Or even months” may be slightly wishful, however; keep it to 2.5 weeks and you’ll be just fine.

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Conclusions

For all normal wine preservation tasks and durations, the Repour Wine Saver is a phenomenal addition to your preservation arsenal and delivers exactly what it promises.  It provides perfect preservation of an open bottle for over 2 weeks, at least as pristinely (if not moreso, though I can’t say for sure) as argon does.  After that, for me at least and in this particular experiment, the decline was sharp, so I would not recommend the Repour for marathon 3+ week endurance efforts, but for everything short of that it was amazing.  For those seeking a preservation option within any standard open-bottle drinking window, Repour should absolutely be on your radar; it may face a pricing challenge from argon dispensers, but if you’re looking for an effective argon alternative, you’ve found it.  I can see future iterations of the Repour (perhaps ones featuring a permanent multi-use stopper and replaceable oxygen-absorbing filters?) significantly narrowing the price gap, and I hope the folks behind this Wine Saver keep aggressively trying to move it forward, because the base idea works, and the world of wine could always use more good ideas.

UPDATE:  Repour Depletion Information

Since posting the results of my Repour trials three weeks ago, I have received some additional information about how the Repour works which helps explain what went down in my experiment above and which will help you get the most out of any Repour that you buy.  The active ingredient in each Repour that engages with the oxygen in the bottle has enough absorbency reserves to handle the additional air introduced by 5 total single-glass pours (which, if you’re curious, is 1500 mL of oxygen overall, assuming a standard 750 mL bottle and five even 5 oz/150mL pours).  If you use the Repour one full glass at a time and otherwise don’t open the bottle, the Repour shouldn’t run out before the wine in the bottle does.  If, however, you go through your bottle by way of a series of smaller pours and top-ups, the Repour is forced to deal with the full amount of air remaining in the bottle every time you splash out a bit more wine, with the result that its 1500 mL of absorbing capacity gets used up much more quickly and hits empty before all the wine is poured.

When the Repour has absorbed all of the oxygen in a partially empty bottle, the interior of the bottle is in a light vacuum state due to the elimination (via irreversible chemical reaction) of part of the air hovering over the liquid; this is a state that should stably preserve the remaining wine in an anaerobic environment for a lengthy period of time.  The reason why my test Repour performed well, right up until it didn’t, was that my series of smaller tasting pours and re-pours burned through the preserver’s absorbency by the 2.5 week point; next time I’ll stick to full-glass mode so as to maintain my Repour’s battery life a bit better.  I still don’t know why things went downhill so quickly after the Repour expired, but at least now I know that “days, weeks or even months” may still be possible with this system, if used in the most efficient way.  The more you know.


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