Title:
OXIDATION SUPPRESSING STOPPER FOR WINE
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A stopper and method for its use for selectively retaining a liquid, such as wine, within a bottle and for minimizing oxidation of the bottle's contents. The stopper includes a head portion sized to reside external to the bottle opening and a neck portion sized to fit and be selectively retained within the neck of the bottle. The stopper further has an inert gas entry port for receiving a source of pressurized inert gas and for introducing the inert gas proximate the meniscus of the liquid in the bottle and a gas venting port for discharging gas from the bottle upon the introduction of inert gas thereto. The stopper is provided with a plurality of seals substantially preventing liquid from passing through the stopper when the neck portion is seated within the bottle opening.



Inventors:
Luzaich, Gregory John (Windsor, CA, US)
Lerner, Michael Jeffrey (Santa Rosa, CA, US)
Application Number:
12/125688
Publication Date:
11/27/2008
Filing Date:
05/22/2008
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D51/16
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
WALKER, NED ANDREW
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GREGORY LUZAICH (WINSOR, CA, US)
Claims:
1. A stopper for selectively retaining a liquid within a bottle and for minimizing oxidation of said liquid, said bottle having an expanded region for holding said liquid and a bottle neck between said expanded region and an opening, said liquid forming a meniscus below said opening, said stopper compromising a head portion sized to reside external to said opening and a neck portion sized to fit within said bottle neck and be selectively retained within said bottle neck, an inert gas entry port for selectively receiving a source of pressurized inert gas and for selectively introducing said inert gas proximate said meniscus and a gas venting port for selectively discharging air from said bottle upon the introduction of inert gas thereto and a plurality of seals substantially preventing said liquid from passing through said stopper when said neck portion is seated within said bottle opening.

2. The stopper of claim 1 wherein said liquid is wine.

3. The stopper of claim 1 wherein said stopper is convertible between an open position in which inert gas can be introduced proximate to said meniscus when said gas venting port is open and a closed position in which inert gas cannot be introduced proximate said meniscus when said gas venting port is closed.

4. The stopper of claim 3 wherein said stopper is convertible between open and closed positions by twisting said head portion with respect to said neck position.

5. The stopper of claim 1 wherein said neck portion further comprises ridges for securing said neck portion within said bottle.

6. The stopper of claim 1 wherein said gas venting port is positioned to discharge air from said bottle as it is displaced by said inert gas.

7. The stopper of claim 4 wherein the twisting of said stopper causes a plunger within said neck to move vertically to selectively open and close said stopper to the passage of gas therethrough.

8. A method for selectively retaining a liquid within a bottle and for minimizing oxidation of said liquid, the bottle having an expanded region for holding said liquid and a bottle neck between the expanded region and an opening, the liquid forming a meniscus below said opening, a stopper comprising a head portion sized to reside external to the opening and a neck portion sized to fit within and be selectively retained within said bottle neck, an inert gas entry port for selectively receiving a source of pressurized inert gas and for selectively introducing said inert gas proximate said meniscus and a gas venting port for selectively discharging gas from said bottle upon the introduction of inert gas thereto, said stopper having a plurality of seals substantially preventing said liquid from passing through said stopper once said neck portion is seating within said bottle opening, said method compromising inserting said stopper through said opening and into said bottle to seal the neck of said stopper therein, placing said stopper in an open position, introducing inert gas proximate said meniscus and causing air which existed proximate said meniscus to vent via a venting port within said stopper and converting said stopper to a closed position in which said inert gas cannot be caused to further pass therethrough.

9. The method claim 8 wherein said stopper is convertible between open and closed positions by twisting said head portion with respect to said neck portion.

10. The method of claim 9 wherein the twisting of said stopper causes the plunger within said neck region to move vertically to selectively open and close that stopper to the passage of gas therethrough.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application claims priority to provisional patent application Ser. No. 60/931,870 filed on May 25, 2007.

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention is directed to a stopper device for the storage of an opened container of wine, such as a wine bottle whose cork has been removed and some of its contents decanted. It has been recognized that wine, particularly red wine, once opened and exposed to ambient air, oxidizes thus changing the wine's sought after characteristic taste. The present invention aides in the preservation of wine in opened containers and does so conveniently.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Virtually anyone who routinely drinks wine notices that if a bottle of wine is uncorked and not completely consumed, the wine contained within the bottle changes in its physical and chemical characteristics making the wine much less enjoyable to consume as time passes. This is caused by oxidation, that is, the bonding of oxygen molecules to oxidisable compounds present within the wine. Oxidation of wine results in the production of brown compounds and browning of red pigments with loss of color. It further results in the production of aldehydes and desirable grape (primary), fermentation (secondary) and aging (tertiary) derived flavors. The product of new flavor compounds can mask the desirable flavor compounds.

Such oxidisable compounds in wine include phenolics, alcohols and some flavor aldehyde compounds. Although wines suffer from oxidation, because of the high concentration of phenolics extracted from the grape skins during red wine production, red wine has a high reserve of oxidisable compounds and hence appears more sensitive to oxidative spoilage. Sulphur dioxide added to red wine loosely binds to red wine pigments decolorizing the pigment molecules and rendering a portion of the sulphur dioxide ineffective. The sulphur dioxide is also used to inhibit microbial growth and is thus a highly desirable additive for use in red wines.

It has thus been recognized to be highly desirable to limit or entirely prevent oxygen, such as that contained in ambient air, from contacting the surface of a food product, such as wine, in order to maintain the product's desirable flavor and other physical characteristics.

There have been rather rudimentary attempts to inject an inert gas in the free space of an opened wine bottle in order to displace air. There have also been syringe-like products which enable the user to withdraw air from the bottle's free space. However, such devices have proven to be ineffective in the flow of inert gas to the free space above the wine and in removal of the ambient air to substantially reduce oxidation.

It is thus an object of the present invention to provide a stopper, which is simple to employ, can be employed with virtually any wine bottle and which can greatly suppress oxidation of wine contained therein.

This and further objects will be more readily appreciated when considering the following disclosure and appended drawings.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed to a stopper device sized to fit within the neck of an opened wine bottle. The device includes a neck portion joined to a head portion, the latter extending external to the wine bottle during use. In use, pressurized inert gas introduced into the primary orifice will move through the stopper thus allowing the inert gas to be introduced within open space above the wine meniscus. The stopper is a rotary cap which essentially opens and closes the gas injection path and allows the gas to pass in to the wine bottle. The primary gas injection path is selectively blocked according to the position of the orifice. In the open position gas is allowed to be injected in to the bottle while a separate vent air path prevents the bottle from overpressurizing during the injection of the gas by facilitating a reduction of the amount of air in the bottle. In the closed orientation, both the gas injection path and the vent path are sealed thus isolating the contents of the bottle from the external atmosphere. Because inert gas, such as argon, is heavier than air, air will be displaced through the vent path. Thus, by the introduction of inert gas through the primary orifice, inert gas can be conveniently, accurately and easily introduced to the free space within the wine bottle above the wine meniscus thus suppressing oxidation.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

FIG. 1 is a cross-sectional view of the wine stopper of the present invention in the closed position.

FIG. 2 is a detailed view of a portion of FIG. 1

FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view of the wine stopper of the present invention in the open position.

FIG. 4 is a detailed view of a portion of FIG. 3.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

As shown in FIG. 1, the present invention involves stopper 10 having head portion 11 sized to reside external to a wine bottle once neck portion 12 has been inserted therein. Ideally, neck portion 12, composed of a resilient elastomer or plastic and will include ridges 13 which deform as neck portion 12 is inserted within the typical neck of the wine bottle thus providing for a snug interface substantially preventing gas from entering or exiting the wine bottle interior between the neck region of the wine bottle and neck 12 of stopper 10.

In operation, any suitable, commercially available source of inert gas can be employed. Typically, such devices include a pressurized cartridge of an inert gas such as argon, having a trigger device and tube for directing the inert gas to an end point location. This tube would be inserted within the plunger 14, fitting snugly therein through the use of O-rings 15 positioned, as shown, proximate the entry port of head portion 11.

Prior to the introduction of inert gas, the stopper is oriented in its open position by moving the plunger 14 vertically. In this embodiment the cap is rotated radially thus translating the plunger 14 long the axis of the plunger. The plunger may be mechanically or electromechanically translated in a variety of different ways. During gas injection the gas travels through the plunger plenum 16 and exits radially through orifice 18 (FIG. 2) into radial area 20 between the plunger cap 22 and the stopper body 9. The gas is then allowed to pass by primary ring seal 24 and into the bottle via straw 28.

When gas is injected a positive pressure is created inside the bottle. The positive pressure causes air inside the bottle to be forced out through a separate ventilation path. The ventilation path is designed such that the exiting air does not mix with the incoming inert gas. Plunger cap 22 is physically connected to plunger 14. When the stopper is in its open position, plunger cap 22 and its plunger vent 56 (FIG. 4) are retracted allowing air to enter area 43 and then vent cavity 44. The air is exhausted through vent hole 30 and then by vent post seal 32. The air enters radial area 34 outside plunger cap vent post 42 and then into vent post cross hole 36. It is then exhausted through vent passage way 38 down the center of each plunger cap vent post 42 and into corresponding passageway 50 in plunger 14 as depicted by dotted line 39. Vent 56 is constructed such that the passage is above seal 46 when plunger 14 is up (open) and below seal 46 when plunger 14 is in the down (closed) portion. Air is prevented from mixing with inert gas by radial vent post seal 37. The plunger and plunger vent cap are glued together to prevent any leakage during injection. The air finally exits through vent 56 on the side of plunger 14. It should be noted that radial seals 46 and 48 seal the plunger 14 to body 10. This prevents leakage and forces gas and exhaust air to be routed in the correct manner. )-ring 52 is employed to block passageway 50 and is retained in position by element 54 (FIG. 3).

By having a separate vent path, inert gas is allowed to flow through the plunger 14 and into the subject wine bottle thus introducing inert gas above the meniscus of the wine contained therein. The inert gas would then be caused to blanket the wine meniscus as it is heavier than air. At the same time air inside the bottle is allowed to exit the bottle via a separate vent path. This vent prevents the bottle from overpressurizing and allows inert gas to flow in and the air to flow out.

When gas injection has been completed the outer cap 26 is rotated to its closed position. This axially actuates plunger 14 to its lower position. (FIG. 1.) Plunger cap 22 is lowered onto seals 24 and 32. The seals are preferably constructed from a thermoplastic elastomer and seal when compressed by plunger cap 22. This completely seals the contents of the bottle and prevents leakage. The bottle can be laid down and the fluid will be sealed by seals 13, 24 and 32. It should be noted that the sealing system is designed redundantly such that the liquid or gas would have to pass several seals in order to leak. Seal 24 has 3 ridges, each of which would have to be compromised in order for the bottle contents to leak through that particular path. During storage of an opened bottle with the invention installed and closed, pressure due to the fermentation taking place inside the bottle builds. The seals are constructed such that they do not leak even with this added pressure. It is noted that as inert gas is introduced to the interior of a wine container because it is more dense than air, it will settle upon the meniscus of the wine contained therein.

Although the present invention was discussed in terms of the preservation of wine, it can be employed to extend the shelf life of virtually any product made the subject of oxidive deterioration. In other words, the present invention can introduce an inert gas to the interior of a container and substantially prevent the inert gas from being inadvertently dislodged there from and the product preserved thereby.





 
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