I was eager for that magical way to keep wine fresh for more than two days without dropping the big bucks on a Coravin, so when an ad for a new product came across my Facebook feed, I was intrigued. The ZOS Halo (zero oxygen system) launched a Kickstarter campaign in spring 2017, and I decided that the starter kit which included two additional cartridges was worth an investment of $45. (Current retail price is $74.95 and replacement cartridges are $14.95 for a two-pack)
The ZOS Halo is a stopper with a glass top that lights up one of three colors to indicate whether it is working properly. The stopper has a cartridge that you screw into the housing which houses crystals to absorb all of the oxygen out of your bottle. I liked the idea of removing oxygen from my wine bottle without introducing a gas. Having used the Coravin extensively at work, I was also looking to avoid that “oil slick” look that occasionally appears on the top of the wine as well.
You can supposedly get up to two months of fresh wine with the stopper firmly in place and in proper working order. The company claims that the stopper can be removed and reinserted, and that each cartridge will last for five to fifteen bottles. I couldn’t wait to see if it lived up to the hype.
To start the experiment, I first had to decide on which wine to use. I have a fairly decent collection of special wines that would be wonderful to open and enjoy over the course of a month or two. They include a few special releases, magnums of 98-100 point wines, a Pinot Noir reserve collection from Sonoma that I would grab first in a house fire, and many of my luscious Texas babies.
But what if this new-fangled stopper didn’t work? Which wine would I be willing to “sacrifice?” More importantly, what if I chose a wine that was just a little too outside the box to make for a good experiment? (I tend to dabble in some oddball varietals and unknown regions that might shift and change on their own.)
I settled on a 2012 Beaulieu Vineyards Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon for two reasons:
- It has a classic structure and predictable tasting profile that would really allow me to track any changes in the wine
- It was a free bottle from winning a sales contest. If the stopper failed and the wine was ruined, I wouldn’t have lost one of my treasures.
I opened the package and read all of the instructions. This is not as easy as simply popping a cartridge onto the stopper and sticking it into the bottle. The company stresses the importance of not letting the cartridge be in contact with air for any length of time. It is designed to absorb oxygen so leaving it unsealed and lying on the counter even for a few minutes will destroy its capabilities.
After getting the batteries into the glass top, I shook up a cartridge in its plastic container to activate the absorption crystals. Once it is attached to the top, it must be placed in a tester tube to verify it is ready to use. The top will flash alternating green and red lights, and if it ends on a steady green light, you are ready to begin.
TEST 1: October 22, 2017
My husband and I opened the wine and found exactly what we were expecting: deep ruby red color; aromas of dark cherry, currant, violets, leather, and oak flavors that led to faint smokiness, and palatable “Rutherford dust.”
I tested the stopper one more time to make certain it was a steady green, placed it firmly into the bottle and waited for it to turn blue which is an indication that everything is working. The bottle should be stored upright, and if it is moved at all, the blue light will flash. (If the red light flashes, it is an indication that the cartridge needs to be replaced)
TEST 2: October 29, 2017 (one week)
The wine still tasted very good. The berry flavors seemed a little muted but the wine did not taste spoiled.
TEST 3: November 19, 2017 (four weeks)
The wine still had that deep ruby red color, but there was a shift in the taste. Within the first minute of pouring, more smokiness seemed evident, the berry flavors were greatly diminished, and there was something like a sour or dank taste. I let the glass sit while I dealt with a new problem with the stopper.
The stopper had turned red when reinserted into the bottle. I took it out and shook it for 10 seconds to reactivate the cartridge. I used the tester to get the green and red flashing lights, and when it remained steadily green, I reinserted the stopper and waited for the blue light.
Meanwhile, the wine sat in the glass for about 10 minutes. At that point, the dankness had disappeared, but the wine showed more of the earthy, dusty, smoke, and leather notes. It didn’t taste ruined, but it was clearly different.
TEST 4: November 26, 2017 (five weeks)
The wine was very different. We detected a chemical or metallic aftertaste. Again, a little time in the glass changed the wine. At the five minute mark, the aromas seemed to be intact, the flavors were similar to test three, but significantly less of the Rutherford dust. A few more minutes invited back some of the berry flavors. But overall, the wine was not drinkable. It was no longer the BV Rutherford of five weeks earlier, and the cartridge appeared to be finished. In the test holder, the red light stayed illuminated despite several attempts to revive the absorption crystals.
So why didn’t my wine last two months (or the five to fifteen bottles the website claims)? It’s hard to know. I could not find any current reviews of this product from a consumer. The company website has a list of FAQs, but none seemed to address my problem. Had I used the stopper incorrectly? Did I use it correctly, but simply had a defective cartridge? I’ll need a second test to answer that one.
Overall, I think this product did well for the first week. I could see the value of using it if I opened a nice bottle that I could not finish in one or two sittings but wanted to finish within a two week period. Perhaps if I hadn’t opened it at all after that first glass, it would have lasted a full two months. I also think it kept the wine fresher than the pump air removal systems for the one week test. For the long haul, I’m not ready to commit it to one of my treasures. One drawback of this over a Coravin is that the stopper can only be used in one bottle at a time. (Of course, we are welcome to purchase multiple stoppers to overcome that problem)
I’ll try this product again, but if I have the same issues with the cartridge failing so quickly, there will be no romance here. Now, if only Santa would bring me a Coravin.
For more information: www.zoswine.com
Kimberly Martin lives in Grapevine, Texas. Wine is a second career for her and a great choice over the 25 years she spent in politics. Kimberly currently holds an Introductory Sommelier certificate and is close to completing the Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) program. She works as a Wine Specialist at Total Wine & More in Lewisville. Her husband Andrew Martin enjoys helping her with her wine tasting homework as often as he can.
For two wine preservation systems we reviewed that work very well, please check out the Zzysh Preservation System and Repour.
Andre Rankin says
I bought 5 of these units to be used in my restaurant and eagerly awaited their arrival to test it.
I tested my first unit on a South African Pinotage. A lovely wine, but not one i would cry over if it did not go as planned.
I also found that after 5 weeks it was not in a good drinkable state anymore, but at least my preserver still tested green after 5 weeks.
I used a second preserver on a white blend. A very nice one, so i took a bit of a gamble. Unfortunately this time it did not pay out.
I tasted the wine 1 day after using the halo and it had already lost a lot of flavour/taste.
2 days later i poured another tester and also tested the halo unit…tested red…
The wine had lost pretty much all it’s flavour…i will not sell it in this state.
So the unit lasted 3 days in total in my white testing bottle.
The theory behind it is good, but i read similar experiences from other Kickstarter backers and it also sounds like their customer service is not responding to peoples complaints.
Personally i would not recommend this device in it’s current state. They need to sort out the cartridge life/reliability issues and also address the fit of this unit in bottles with a slightly larger neck
Jeff Cope says
Andre, thank you for your comments. It sounds like your testing results were the same as Kimberly’s. If you are still looking for something, I would recommend trying the Zzysh preservation system. If it does for still wine what it did for sparkling wine in our tests, your results should be better. Plus the gas capsules end up being less expensive than this system because you get 5 capsules vs. 2 capsules. Cheers!
Andre, I’d love to encourage you to check out our product, the Repour Winesaver http://www.repour.com Like the product reviewed here, we use oxygen absorption to preserve an opened bottle of wine but through a very different approach. We’re new to the market, but have been receiving rave reviews for our effectiveness, ease of use and cost/bottle for our patent pending product.
Jeff, thedrunkencyclist.com @masi3v just recently published an independent review which included Repour and 5 other mainstream preservation methods that you’d be quite familiar with. We’re happy to say that Repour performed at the top in his review as has been the case in many independent reviews that have come out since our launch.
We’d love to answer any questions you have about Repour and discuss further the possibility of use in your restaurant(s). Please reach out to us as we’d love to discuss further.
Jeff Cope says
Hi Tom, thanks for the plug to Jeff’s post. 🙂 But it’s all good because I know Jeff. I’d love to review Repour and see how it compares with the preservation systems I have reviewed.
Kit Cosper says
Hmm. I participated in the Kickstarter (I got the 3 unit pack, with extra refills) and have just completed a “long term” test and a shorter test.
First, a bit of background. I was looking for an opportunity to give them a go, but it wasn’t until January (2018) that I had a chance. My wife was in kidney failure, so our wine consumption waned over the 2016-2017 time frame. By January her transplant was scheduled (for February) and I opened a bottle of 2008 Meitz Claret for testing. It’s a solid wine, and after having several bottles from a case I purchased several years ago it has been consistently good. Not spectacular, but quite good.
We each had a glass in late January. Stoppered it with a fresh ZOS and put it on a quiet corner of the kitchen counter, away from windows, heat sources, etc. We left for surgery on February 15 and didn’t return home until April 7. A couple of weeks later I pulled the stopper and poured a glass. It wasn’t quite as “bright” as a fresh bottle, but it definitely wasn’t off by any measure. (Re-stoppered immediately, the lights flashed appropriately and I ignored it until tonight – September 1.)
A couple of weeks ago we opened a bottle of Zinfandel discovered at a wine tasting – OZV is a young Zin that tastes surprisingly similar to an Oregon Pinot Noir with 6-8 years in the bottle. Soft, fruity, well-rounded, juicy, infinitely quaffable are the adjectives that come to mind. The best part is that it’s only a couple of years old and in the sub $20 price range. (We were SHOCKED to discover this in the blind tasting – my wife and I are both well-credentialed tea professionals, so our palettes are fairly experienced, so it’s not like we miss subtleties.) Anyway – given the medication regimen my wife is on a small-ish glass is about all she has these days. Not wanting to be a lush, I pulled out another ZOS and put it to the test.
I grilled steaks tonight and we wanted wine, so I figured it was a good time to see where things stood with both of our test subjects.
The Meitz was still quite drinkable and didn’t offer any off-notes. It was a bit softer/more rounded than a fresh bottle (which can be a bit peppery and edgy) but there was absolutely nothing off-putting about it. I even had our daughter give it a taste – and she agreed – given she’s not a fan of big, bold reds I thought this a good sign.
According to my wife the OZV was nearly identical to how it was two weeks ago. I didn’t have a chance to taste it because they polished it off pretty quickly.
Now, the unit from January is flashing red – so it’s apparently shot. While it lasted many months I am a bit puzzled as to why it seems to be expired even though it’s been mostly untouched. I’ll try giving it a shake to see if perhaps it’s just a transient issue. Otherwise, I’m quite pleased with my initial experience. Having read the experiences presented here I’ll certainly proceed with caution, and I’ll definitely extend my data collection until I am completely comfortable that I’m not risking a bottle of good wine by putting it under a ZOS.
Jeff Cope says
Thanks for the comments Kit. I personally have not tried the ZOS, but based on other reviews I have read, you have a very rare situation. To have a 7 month wine preserved and still be tasting well, you’re getting into Coravin area. I wish you continued success with your use of ZOS. Cheers!