Just recently I tested out Private Preserve while bottling a raisin wine. Private Preserve is an aerosol can filled with a mixture of inert gases. In this episode we’re going to explore what inert gases are, why it’s beneficial to use them, and I’ll share my own thoughts and experiences using these gases.
What are inert gases?
Inert gases are gases that do not normally react with anything. Unlike oxygen which oxidizes things like metal, wine, and food, inert gases do not interact with these at all.
You can expose metal to an inert gas and it won’t rust so long as that is the only gas the metal is exposed to. This ties into why you would want to use inert gases when making or more accurately storing wine.
Why Should I Use an Inert Gas to Protect Wine?
The best use of inert gases in winemaking is to displace the oxygen in a container of finished wine. After a wine has finished fermenting it will be susceptible to the negative effects of oxidation. A wine that has been exposed to too much oxygen will taste flat, flabby, and past its prime.
Inert gases are used in a process called sparging, which is a fancy term for displacing the oxygen in a container with inert gases. Generally you would have your wine in whatever container it is going to be aged in, be that a carboy or bottle, or whatever and then you spray an inert gas to remove the oxygen and quickly recap the container to trap the gasses. Now you can also sparge an empty container and then fill it with wine, same thing.
The Easy Way to Try Inert Gas
Private preserve is probably the easiest way to dip your toe in the use of inert gases. It comes in an aerosol can and runs about $20 US. The can contains a mixture of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and argon and according to the manufacturer are “all benign, non-flammable, tasteless, and medial quality”. The can does come with a short straw that you can use to direct the flow of gases.
Originally it was developed for wine drinkers to top up their open bottles of wine to preserve it for the next day. I’d certainly go that far if I was drinking something expensive or really fancy but it also comes in handy for home wine makers looking to try inert gases.
The alternative is to go out and buy a tank of inert gas but in addition you’ll need hoses and regulators to control the flow of and direct the gas into your container of choice. Generally these gases come in decent sized tanks that might take a home wine maker a long time to go through. I’ve priced small systems out and found that it would take $150 – $200 to get going with inert gases. This is pretty expensive in comparison to $20 for the aerosol can.
Using Private Preserve
When you pick up a can of Private Preserve the first thing you’ll notice is that it weighs next to nothing. The manufacturer even prints a note right on the can letting you know that it will feel empty but it is in fact full of inert gases.
I used it to top up my bottles. For my first attempt I filled the bottle with wine and then went to top up the bottles. The trouble I had was that the inert gases came out with so much gusto that it blew wine all over the place and I had to add more to it just so the bottles were full. There may be a way to do it more gently but it seemed like it would be difficult to do this way.
After that I decided to change tactics. Before bottling I had racked the wine out of one glass jug and into a clean one to get off of the sediment. Then I took sanitized, plastic kitchen funnel and placed it in the mouth of the bottle. With the hose attached I sprayed Private preserve down into the empty bottle. Taking the jug of wine I then just poured it straight into the funnel.
As you can imagine the wine did splash a bit as it fell into the bottle but I really wasn’t worried about it because it was full of inert gas. Oxidation isn’t an issue and the gases themselves would not interact with the wine in any way. If anything the splashing served to get out any lingering carbon dioxide suspended in the wine.
Once the bottle was full I removed the funnel and inserted my cork. Actually I used nomacorcs but that’s a topic for another time.
What I like about the funnel method is:
- Knowing my wine was protected by the inert gases.
- Getting out of using the racking cane, tube, and bottle filler.
- Not having to worry about spraying wine all over the place.
I’ve found that for small, one gallon batches that the racking cane and even the autosiphon are just too much to manage. It’s too easy to get the sediment stirred back up. Using inert gases allowed me to just pour the wine through a funnel. It was quick, safe for the wine, and as I mentioned before, got out any remaining carbon dioxide.
Whenever I bottle wine there’s always a half bottle or so left over at the end. It rarely fits evenly into the bottles without any leftover. With inert gases you could presumably top up that last half bottle, cork it, and age it with the rest if it’s not quite ready to be consumed at the time of bottling.
For all the good I can say about Private Preserve I did have a couple issues with it.
First off, as I mentioned earlier, you cannot tell how much you have. When you pick up a full can of this stuff it feels completely empty. It’s not like the compressed air you use to clean out a computer if you’ve ever used that. No matter how much is left the can always feels empty.
If I were to make Private Preserve a permanent part of my winemaking routine I would want to always have a backup can on hand. That way if I’m in the middle of bottling and the can runs out I’ve got another in reserve to finish the job with.
My next issue was the force with which the gas came out. However, I was able to over come this by changing the order in which the wine and gas went into the bottle. I recommend first sparging the container and then quickly filling it up and capping it off.
Lastly, you can’t see the inert gases. This means you’ll probably use more than you need to just to be sure the container is full. Also, because you can’t see it, you don’t know when it has dissipated. The carbon dioxide and argon are heavier than air so those will at least stick around for a reasonable amount of time.
This isn’t to say that you could spray it over an open fermenter and expect it to hang around for days at a time. I recommend spraying it and working quickly to trap as much as you can. The nitrogen will dissipate fairly quickly as it is lighter than air.
For more information on Private Preserve check out the manufacturers website here. You can pick up a can for yourself at many wine shops or online at Midwest Supplies. I have not been compensated in any way for this review and the above links are not affiliate links.