Each week, we rummage through the dark corners of our kitchen drawers to bring you an enigmatic item. We ask you to guess what it is in our weekly From the From the Back of the Drawer puzzle. To enter this week’s puzzle, visit this page. To read more descriptions of past items, visit this page. And, don’t forget to donate your odd items to the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.
This week’s From the Back of the Drawer mystery item comes to us from the wine lover’s kitchen. This blue plastic tool, known as a wine bottle vacuum pump, is one of several weapons in the wine enthusiast’s battle to save half-finished bottles of wine. Unless unfinished bottles of wine are properly resealed, the air that seeps into the open bottles will begin to negatively affect the flavor of the wine. This is because the oxygen in the air causes the wine to oxidate—a process that can eventually turn wine into vinegar. Typically, the vacuum method involves placing a special rubber stopper into an unfinished bottle. The vacuum pump is then attached to the stopper, and air is pumped by hand from the bottle. This particular version does not utilize a rubber stopper—instead, the vacuum pump is placed directly into the bottle.
The vacuum pump is only one of several wine preservation methods. Another popular method involves injecting inert gas into the partially-empty wine bottle, an act that displaces the air, and therefore the oxygen, in the bottle. Some connoisseurs simply pour remaining wine into smaller containers, leaving no room for air between the wine and the bottom of the cork.
Which method is best? Wine lovers cannot agree. While some experts praise the simplicity and moderate effectiveness of wine vacuum pumps, many argue that the relatively weak vacuum pressure preserves the wine for only one or two days. Additionally, many of those same experts point to potential negative effects caused by the method. It is possible, for example, that the vacuum process removes not only oxygen, but also certain compounds responsible for the wine’s flavor and aroma. Nevertheless, due to the other methods’ own combinations of benefits and issues, the vacuum pump remains a popular choice for wine preservation.
Our rating: The vacuum pump is not a perfect wine preservation method, but it does effectively remove some of the extra air in an open wine bottle and creates a seal that will usually last for at least a day.
Design: This one-piece vacuum pump may be one of the easiest-to-use methods of wine preservation.
Originality: This particular version of the pump is different from most in that it does not require separate rubber stoppers, but attaches to the bottle as one piece.
Practicality: A wine bottle vacuum pump is not a necessity for every kitchen. Consistent wine drinkers may want to invest. Otherwise, experts tend to agree that it is better to be prepared finish a particularly special bottle of wine in one sitting.