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Hello, and welcome to the first of a new series of columns from me called Wine Gear. In this space we’ll be reviewing wine accessories – those things that go along with sharing and enjoying wine.

I’ve tried a lot of them, and I intend on trying a lot more. So you might wonder what makes me qualified to test wine products? Well for six years I ran product testing at PC Week magazine, and I hosted the popular Fresh Gear product review show on cable network TechTV for five years – and most recently I was editor in chief of PC Magazine. I know how to test products, and I don’t pull any punches. I hope you’ll enjoy these columns, and make sure you comment, and let me know what you think!

With that let’s get into it.

Although I’m a big fan of wine, I often only want a glass or two with dinner, which leaves a half bottle or more left over. I’ve got a modest cellar, but many of my wines are both ready to drink, and too expensive to throw half away. And there’s the rub – how do I save a half bottle of wine for a day or two without it going flat?

I’ve tried a wide variety of pumps, gizmos, corks and gadgets, but none seemed to work. Finally, a few years ago I settled on Private Preserve – spray cans of inert argon gas that create a neutral layer on top of any remaining liquid.

It worked well, but it wasn’t perfect. Even after one night that really great bottle would often be flat and uninspiring. But it was better than nothing, and at least it worked a good portion of the time. Still, I was loathe to open up any really good bottles of wine, unless I was in a mood to down the whole thing, or friends were over to share it. And so the bulk of my cellar kept aging and aging.

Recently I discovered a new product designed to preserve wine – this time from Australia. The Wine Shield is an odd product, and at first blush it really shouldn’t work. The shield is basically a plastic disc, about the diameter of a wine bottle, with the outer radius sliced diametrically in a radial pattern to allow it to fit different sized bottles. To insert it into a bottle, you wrap it around an included plastic fork, slip it in, and then let it tumble. The disk ends up floating on top of any left-over wine, creating a seal that promises to stop oxidization and preserve the rest of the bottle.

Why would a simple plastic shield work where pumps, sprays and others failed? I was skeptical, but I figured I’d try it – at least I’d be able to check another wine gizmo off the list.

Surprisingly, it worked. Not all the time, but the success rate was about similar to Private Preserve. Great, though now I have two things that work reasonably well, but are still prone to failure. I still wasn’t willing to take a chance on those 2000 Bordeauxs, or that 1995 Merryvale Vineyards Profile I was waiting to drink.

But then I had a flash of inspiration. What about COMBINING the two? Maybe working together they might provide a shield that would reliably work for 24 hours, and perhaps even for a few days or longer.

So like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, I put two great tastes together and gave it a shot. And it worked better than I’d even hoped. Every single bottle I used with my combo stayed virtually intact for 24 hours. I started stretching it to two days, and the combo held up nicely as well. After that it was hit or miss, but I’ve kept bottles of Tempranillo, for example, for up to four days without losing any body, taste or smell.

So I put it to the test. I grabbed three bottles of Beronia Reserve 2005 and put them to the test. I opened all three simultaneously and tasted them. All good. I poured a glass off from each, and then stoppered one with PrivatePreserve, the next with a WineShield, and the third with my combination. After an hour or so I tasted each of the glasses, and they were in fine shape!

A day later I came back and poured off a glass from each of the three bottles.  I detected some fading in both the PrivatePreserve and the WineShield bottles, but both were very drinkable. My combo was still going strong.

By the second day, both the PP and WS bottles were noticeably fading – Drinkable, but only barely.  I poured them out. The combo bottle was vibrant and alive, and still tasted like it had when I opened it.  By day three it was still pretty good, but I could easily detect it fading.  By day four I tasted the last glass, but there was very little left. I poured it down the sink.

So there you have it. If you’re like me and are looking for a good way to save a half-opened bottle for a day or two, my combo route offers the best alternative I’ve found to date. Sure it’s more expensive than either alone, but unless you’re drinking Two-Buck Chuck, the price is well worth it!

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