Update on Vino DeCanto wine preserver

During the last month, I have written my assessment, mostly negative, about the newly launched Vino DeCanto wine preserver.  But through the benefits of social media (the founder and designer was alerted to my blog posts on the product) and the credit of the company, the founder reached out to me to try to really understand my experiences and how to improve them.  In fact, he spent two hours driving each way today to visit me and several more to review the experiences I have had with the product.  We used my Vino DeCanto, tested it and compared it to new newer models he brought with him.  I learned a lot about the process of making the Vino DeCanto, a number of the engineering and manufacturing challenges they have faced and what they are doing about them.  Most importantly, I learned a lot about the character of the company and how far they are willing to attend to, invest in, and address customer concerns to be able to deliver a high-quality product.

As I stated earlier, the product works and does an exceptional job preserving wine, even when I tried it on a fragile wine.  My concerns were more around the operational aspects of the Vino DeCanto, such as filling the glass, moving the container, cleaning the container, the drip factor and so on.  This product is still being worked on and improvements have been noted and in progress.  Five key ones I found out about today include:

  1. using a different process to manufacture the glass container to provide far greater consistency in diameter and perfect circumference (by using an expensive mold instead of the previous glass tube cutting process).  Even slight variations created significant impact on the ease of dispensing wine with ease or difficulty dispensing wine and these variations will be greatly reduced, if not removed entirely
  2. offering a stand to solidify and ease filling and dispensing wine
  3. altering the size and weight of the sealing ball to better control pressure while dispensing wine and reducing drip lag time
  4. slightly modified use of O-ring placement for better movement and wine preservation
  5. different texturing of the material in some parts to improve wine preservation with minimal potential for defect

All five of these known improvements will significantly improve the use of the device and continue to improve wine durability.  I also learned about five tricks for more easily using and cleaning the device.  Vino DeCanto has now created a one-page Tips and Operational Guide where none existed before and also is in the process of making a YouTube video to show others these suggestions for easier use.  Looking back, it might be easy to say the company should have waited another six months to work through these improvements, but it has really been through the device’s use in wine bars and through a few select early-on customers such as myself that they have been able to quickly identify and make the improvements necessary.  They were almost too close to the problems to identify them as being potential issues for others.

Vino DeCanto newThey replaced my earlier device with a newer one and also provided another new one to continue to test and help them work through ongoing areas for improvement.  We are going to put both devices through their paces over the next month and continue  help provide further suggestions on how to make the Vino DeCanto better. Tonight, I have poured a bottle of 1995 Leasingham Classic Clare Shiraz into the Vino DeCanto and dispensed a glass.  The new device I received today worked far better than my previous one in terms of the consistent dispensing of the wine and to just the amount I intended in the glass.  Now the wine will sit for a month to really test out how well it is preserved.  At least I have been able to verify one of my previous major operational issues was resolved.

The company reached out, in fact, went out of their way to listen to what I had to say, took my and other customer’s suggestions on board and rectified the previous product by replacing it for me.  I learned a lot about the character and the passion behind the man who made this device and the company he is building and it is all good.  I am going to give this device another chance and continue to work with them to help make sure this is a quality product for those who need wine preservation, but are not interested or willing to go with the argon gas method.

Well done and thank you to Vino DeCanto for listening to your customers and persistently continuing to improve your product.

Steve Shipley, author Wine Sense, available now!
© 2014.  Steve Shipley. All rights reserved.
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Vino DeCanto wine preserver not suitable for use

12 days ago, I provided a review on the Vino Decano wine preserver and gave it a mixed review.  After another trial and use, I conclude it is not suitable for use.  First and foremost with only a quarter of the bottle left in storage over the last 12 days, I could tell the wine had deteriorated slightly in quality.  While it did a much better job over about 3.5 weeks than a manual pump would do, it is inferior to what an argon gas replacements is capable of.  I was told they had tested and preserved wine for up to 14 months, but I find this hard to believe.

Vino DeCanto in useOperationally, it continued to disappoint.  I was very cautious, yet still had problems determining how fast and how far to push the plunger; more importantly, I had wine dripping from the spout onto the counter for the next 30 seconds as it was settling back into the container.  And to get all the wine out of the container, I had to completely disassemble the device and pour about 65 – 70 ml of wine into the glass.  It is heavy to use and move about and was more effort to clean clean than I anticipated.

Unless future models are designed better and are easier to operate, I just cannot recommend this device as a wine preserver.  The $229 I spent on it was a waste of money.  I would continue to use a manual vacuum pump or consider using the Coravin or WineSave to preserve a good bottle of wine.  My initial intrigue and the promise of this wine preserver has faded.  The Vino DeCanto is a disappointment.  I am back to using my manual pump and WineSave until my Coravin arrives!

Steve Shipley, author Wine Sense, available now!
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First review in on Vino DeCanto wine preserver

I attended the Newcastle Food and Wine show several weeks ago, and was intrigued and bought one of the very first Vino DeCanto wine preservers ever sold.  Up until now, I have used a manual air extraction pump to preserve an open bottle of good wine for several days, but it certainly does not preserve wine for several weeks or longer.  Vino DeCanto claims they have stored wine in the preserver for up to 14 months!.

I have been exploring buying an expensive four-bottle argon replacement system to keep up to four bottles of wine open for longer periods of time and have also been reviewing the use of WineSave and CoravinWineSave is an argon replacement unit which is good for about 50 applications.  Coravin is unique in that it sticks a fine needle through the cork of a bottle, extracts the amount required and then replaces the wine with argon gas.  The Vino DeCanto operates differently in that it does not replace the empty space with argon (or similar) gas, but rather eliminates the space all together by using a plunger with an O-ring sealer to keep the remaining wine away from air.

Wine PReserver Decanter by VinoDeCanto

Now that I have used it several times, I feel comfortable providing a review of my findings.

The positives:

  • The Vino DeCanto does the job as advertised and preserves the wine.  I had approximately a half-bottle of 1998 Lindeman’s St. George Cabernet Sauvignon (a most outstanding wine BTW!) in the Vino DeCanto for 14 days and it tasted as fresh as when I opened the bottle.  It had not lost fruit, had not turned brown nor in any other manner look or taste different than when I opened it.  The Vino DeCanto does the job!
  • You do not need to continue to buy argon capsules to fill wine bottles; therefore your initial investment in the Vino DeCanto is your entire investment.
  • The Vino DeCanto is beautifully engineered, of very high quality and quite attractive to look at.

The negatives:

  • The Vino DeCanto preserver is heavy and somewhat cumbersome to move around.
  • You can only use it for one bottle at a time, whereas WineSave or Coravin can be used on multiple bottles you have opened.  Therefore, if you want to keep several bottles open at a time, you need to purchase several Vino DeCantos.
  • It is operationally difficult to use without squirting wine out of the top or dripping from the spout.  Even after several uses and being careful about what I was doing, I still had a small mess to clean up each time I have used it.
  • The height of the Vino DeCanto is less than the height of a typical red wine glass, so you either need to mount the device on a stand or hold the glass at an angle underneath the spout.
  • It is difficult to judge how long to push the plunger for as the wine trails for a while after you stop pushing the plunger, so it is easy to overfill the glass

I purchased my Vino DeCanto for Aus $229 at the show price.  It is expected to retail for around $300.  WineSave costs about $35 and is good for approximately 50 applications before you need to buy another one.  Coravin costs about $300 and the replacement capsules cost around $10 (more or less based on how many you) buy and are good for around 15 uses per capsule.  Both WineSave and Coravin can be used on as many bottles as you have opened.  I have not used the Coravin myself, but several friends, including some of Sydney’s top sommeliers have and swear by it.

Given the price, limitation of only being able to use it on one bottle at a time, and the operational challenges I encountered with the Vino DeCanto, I am unlikely to buy another one unless I can be convinced it is easier to use than I have found it.  I may be looking at the Coravin as my ongoing solution to preserving fine wines.

Steve Shipley, author Wine Sense, available now!
© 2014.  Steve Shipley. All rights reserved.
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Save all wine sales receipts – this week’s #SAZTIP

Most of us buy wine with the intent of consuming it.  We do not expect to sell wine off in the future.  I certainly did not plan on it, but then I found myself in a position where it made sense to sell off a lot of my wine.  There are many plausible reasons you may elect to sell off wine, including:

  • Your taste has changed and you like different styles now
  • Your health has changed
  • You find you have wine coming to end of life and will not be able to drink it in time
  • You may just want to free up cash and realize that wine sales is a good way to raise funds

Provenance_stampAnd if you do plan to sell wine, you will be glad that you saved all your wine sales receipts!  There are several good auction and exchange firms to handle your selling needs (one of the best is Wickman’s Fine Wine Auctions), but most of them (and the ones you want to be doing business with) require provenance.  Provenance is proof that the wine has been stored under optimal conditions throughout its life and has the very best chance of being cared for as well as any bottle can be.  And the best source of provenance is your wine sales receipts along with journal entries and time-stamped photos of you taken delivery of the wine and immediately putting the wine in proper storage.  But the most important thing is your wine sales receipts.  It proves you bought the wine directly from the winery or a major wine retailer with some certainty the wine has been looked after properly up to the time you took possession of it.  To further strengthen provenance, you should have records of when you build or secured your cellar, have photographs of it and the wine in the cellar and records of having placed the wine in the cellar.  But none of this matters if you have not saved your wine sales receipts!

And even if you are certain you will never sell off wine in the future, your wine sales receipts provide a record of what you paid for wine which is useful in terms of understanding wine values and how much to pay for wine in the future.  It does not take a lot of effort to save your wine sales receipts.  If you are uncertain if you will need them, throw them into a box and store them for potential future use.  At least you will have them if you require them later.


Steve Shipley, author Wine Sense, out early 2014. Published by InkIT Publishing
© 2014.  Steve Shipley.  All rights reserved.
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Storing wine once the bottle has been opened

Opening a bottle of wine changes its taste dramatically over a few hours and accelerates in next day or two exponentially.  This is due to massively more air that the wine comes in contact with after opening as compared to the very little it has experienced while sealed and laid down in the cellar.

During the time in the bottle, only about 5 – 10 ml of air space exists in a 750 ml bottle of wine for the wine to mature by interacting with the air.  With cork, a few more ml seeps through each year (through evaporation of wine) to continue to help the wine mature.  If there is a cork problem, though, and a lot of air is leaking into the bottle, the wine will mature far too quickly and not be drinkable.  For this same reason, once opened and exposed to much more air, the bottle will become undrinkable after a few days.

Unless you are going to drink the entire bottle over several hours, you need to concern yourself with preventing as much air as possible from interacting with the wine to decelerate the ruin of the wine.  There are several ways of storing wine:

  • Stick the original cork back in to stopper the wine bottle (keeps wine good for about 1 – to 1.5 days)
  • Use a simple consumer manual rubber stopper and vacuum pump set to extract excess air from the bottle (keeps wine good for 2 – 3 days)
  • Use a commercial pump and storage 2-bottle set (keeps wine good for 4 – 6 days) 
  •  Use a carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and argon gas replacement system  that is completely closed sealed (keeps wine good for up to 2 – 3 weeks)

After decanting wine for the right period of time, it is important to get the wine back into a bottle and stopper it as soon as possible.  While several minutes to several hours (in most cases) of decanting will improve the wine, anything after that will only help the wine deteriorate and turn into vinegar.  To slow this process down to ensure you can finish the bottle of wine prior to it going off, you need to minimize its interaction with air to the least amount of time possible.

Every time you open the bottle again to pour another glass, you are letting new air into the bottle, and as the bottle of wine empties, the amount of new air introduced increases, which quickens the pace of deterioration.  Therefore, it is important to stopper the bottle immediately again once you have finished pouring to minimize any excess air in the bottle.  This is why vacuuming the air out and replacing it with a gaseous blend is the most effective way to keep wine fresh for several weeks.

If the cork is still intact or you still have the screw top after opening the bottle, you can use it to stopper the wine.  While there is no expense to this method, the wine will worsen overnight and not be as drinkable the following day, or at least certainly not drinkable by the second day following opening.  If the bottle has been left half empty overnight, you have introduced a lot of new air into the wine which will quickly deteriorate it.  This approach can be used successfully for keeping a bottle of wine fresh for several hours or maybe from afternoon until evening, but I never would use it to store a half-empty bottle overnight.  I use this approach when I have decanted a fine wine for several hours, then re-bottle it to bring to a restaurant within the next hour or so.

The most cost effective way to store wine and keep it drinkable for one or two more days is to use a vacuum pump and cork set.  These tend to cost around $20 – $25 for a pump and a few stoppers and you can buy more stoppers if required.  This uses a special artificial stopper with small holes and one-way openings.  The pump is used to extract as much air as possible and create a vacuum in the bottle.  This significantly reduces the amount of air in contact with the wine and slows the deterioration process, extending the life of the wine by another day or two.

I have a vacuum pump set and have found this to be great value.  For only $20 – $25, you will save many quarter- to half-bottles of wine for another day and over time this can mean keeping thousands of dollars of wine drinkable.  Since it is just my wife and I usually at home for dinner, we may not drink more than a half bottle or little more during any evening.  We will usually have two or three bottles opened at a time, as our mood changes or as we have a snack or meal.  Using the vacuum pump and stopper method keeps several bottles fresh and available to provide us with good choice.

Additionally, when we have larger dinner parties, we will have eight or ten bottles of wine we want to serve upon arrival, with each food course, and for after dinner.  But you are never sure how many people are going to be drinking (one night a friend who we did not know was pregnant was not drinking, for example), and we may have already decanted several of the finer wines, so we might have three or four partial bottles left over at the end of the night.  By using this vacuum pump, we can then keep and drink the partial bottles over the next few days.

The vacuum pump set is a great option for the money.  However, the technology is more limited than with the next higher up commercial model.  Sometimes the rubber stopper seal will be nudged (possibly even upon removal of the pump) and let air re-enter into the bottle.  (You can tell if this has occurred when you open the bottle and there is no popping of the vacuum.  If there is a definite vacuum breakage popping sound, then you know it was sealed properly.)  If this occurs, you should make sure to drink the rest of the wine right away, or you risk it going bad over another day.  If the seal has remained intact, you may be able to get another day of good drinking from the wine.  Unfortunately, there is really nothing you can do to determine if the seal is intact or not until you open it again.  I just try to be very careful to remove the pump from the stopper after pumping by lifting it straight up.  But the seal also may break sometime during the night based on the opening of the bottle.  Based on bottle type, there may be some small differences in the diameter of the bottle opening, causing the seal to be more fragile for wider bottle openings than for narrower ones.  Additionally, if there is some residual wine liquid on the neck where the stopper has been inserted, then there may be some slippage and the seal could break.

The next day or day after, you will have noticed some changes in the taste of the wine.  It is usually smoother (which can be a pleasant improvement if it was tight when you opened it), but you have usually lost some of the grape fullness of flavor.  Therefore, the wine might taste slightly less robust.  After a couple of days, it may even taste ‘dead’ or totally flat using the vacuum pump method of storage.

The next higher up option for wine storage after opening the bottle comes in a small refrigerated unit that has two compartments to hold two different bottles.  Each bottle has a pumping and extraction capability and for most models, each bottle can be stored at a standard white wine or red wine temperature.  Each compartment is set separately you can either store two whites, or two reds, or one of each at the right temperature.
This more commercial option cost between $500 – $700 based on the features and technology provided, but they all work basically the same.  They also require being placed close to an electric outlet.  This technology provides a better seal and air extraction system than the manual vacuum pump which is why it provides several more days of storage without noticeable change in the quality of the wine.  I have considered buying such a system, but I have not yet, as I have very few bottles that would require five or six days of storage.  Additionally, I have not been entirely comfortable with the value point of the technology.  I expect more competition in this field, with improved quality and durability and a lower price in the near future.  I am open to buying such a system, but have not done so yet.  I keep monitoring this type of device though to see what is available and if it is coming to a value point where I am comfortable purchasing one.

The top of the line unit to store opened bottles costs several thousand dollars and can be configured to store as many bottles as you like.  They typically come in a configuration to store four bottles, but can be customized to store less or more.  Additionally, they can be provided as a counter top unit or designed to be built into the wall or cabinetry.  Wine features such as this type of storage unit plus Vintec or other manufacturer’s cellar units are now being featured as key aspects of kitchen renovations.  I love things that are very functional and very stylish and this type of system fits both characteristics!

These systems are manufactured as closed systems where a tight seal is provided for each bottle.  They typically have temperature control to be able to adjust the temperature to be suitable for a certain type of wine (sparkling versus white versus red).  They have much higher quality parts and are custom assembled to suit your needs.  I am hopeful to get such a unit someday when I have the money and also know that I will be living in that house for a long, long time.  They will allow a wine to be opened and drunk over several weeks. The reason they work so well is that they ensure air cannot creep into the space in the bottle as the air has been replaced with carbon dioxide, nitrogen and argon.  By doing so, oxidation has been reduced drastically, preserving the quality of the wine longer.

There are a number of suitable options to keep your wine as fresh as you need it once you have opened the bottle.  They come at different value points and vary based on how long you would typically need to keep bottles opened before finishing them.  The important thing is to always stopper the bottle with one method or another as soon as you can and to extract as much air as you can from the bottle.  This will slow the rate of deterioration and preserve your wine at a level enjoyable for drinking for a longer period of time.


Steve Shipley, author Wine Sense, out early 2014. Published by InkIT Publishing
© 2013.  Steve Shipley
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