Does Wine Go Bad? Everything you Need to Know
I believe your love and taste for wine landed you right here. Glad for you, all the answers are right here.
Let's imagine it is on a late evening, and you want to give your linguine and clams a splash of the Pinot Grigio!
Sure, you'd enjoy the meal, but does the leftover wine bother you? Will it be safe for consumption the following day?
And ultimately, does wine go bad before opening the bottle? If so, how long should it be too long to store your collection?
Fortunately, you've searched the right place for the answers. In this article, we will find out how to tell if the wine is still okay. We shall also see how long the wine should stay and how to best store the wine.
Does wine go bad?
I'm sure the hype surrounding wine maturation must be ringing I your mind. Unfortunately, wine, just like any other processed food/drink, wine goes terrible over time.
Some of the centuries-old bottles are only stored as a collection but not for consumption. Even honey may not go for more than a century without degrading by itself.
So, wines go bad, though this is dependent on the raw materials, method of production, and a couple of other factors.
Let's see how long the different types of wine can reside on the cellar.
How long does an unopened bottle last?
There is one obvious difference between opened and unopened wine. While the former tends to deteriorate, the latter ages.
We all know the pleasant distinctive taste of appropriately aged and matured wine, but that doesn't guarantee the bottle will age forever.
There is the average shelf life for every type of wine. Generally, there are four common types of wine you should be aware of.
These can go for varying longer time on the shelf, past the expiration date.
- White wine - White wine can go up to two years after the expiry date.
- Red wine - Red wine can go slightly longer than white wine. You can still consume your red wine for up to three years past the safe date.
- Cooking wine - If you love wine recipes, it's your chance to applaud me, lol! Cooking wine can still be used five years after the expiration date.
- Fine wine - Fine wine is the true definition of wine, technically. Wine is manufactured to last long, unopened. Fine wine ferments grapes into alcohol, reducing the amount of sugar for bacteria to feed on. Some pure alcohol is also added, making the wine inhabitable for the bacteria. Even with these measures, most fine wine in distribution can only do between 10 and 20 years. The fine wine must still have been appropriately stored in a cellar.
How long does an opened wine bottle last?
This is probably where much of the debate lies, but thanks to the hype, we finally crafted this piece to draw a clear line for you.
Like unopened wine, the opened wine bottle deteriorates depending on the manufacturing process, though not as significant as in unopened wine bottles.
A wine bottle can be consumed for 1-28 days after opening. But again, depending on some other factors, such as after-storage.
Here is how long you can keep those open bottles.
Sparkling Wine - 1-3 days
Sparkling wine owes that irresistible fizz from the significant amount of carbon dioxide added to it. Most of us may not have had any other fizzy wine than champagne. Any sparkling drink will lose the carbonation shortly after opening.
However, traditionally prepared sparkling wines like Champagne and Cava can preserve the bubbling for a little longer than wines crafted by the tank method such as Prosecco.
This is simply because the traditional wine has more compressed air, commonly referred to as 'atmospheres of pressure.'
Light White, Sweet White, and Rose Wine - 5-7 days
The majority of white and rose wines will do up to a week in the refrigerator. You should, however, expect a change in taste and flavor after the first day.
As the wine oxidizes, the fruity flavor and scent will often die down, making the wine gradually listless.
Full-Bodied White Wine - 3-5 days
The most famous in this class are oaked Chardonnay and Viognier. During the manufacture, these wines are exposed to more oxygen before bottling.
They thus tend to oxidize really fast after opening.
You should always have your bottle recorked before placing it in the fridge. Vacuum caps are an excellent investment if these wines happen to be your favorites. Get yourself one.
Red Wine - 3-5 days
In red wines, the amount of tannin and acidity is directly proportional to how long the bottle can open.
If you have a Pinot Noir (light red, and with little tannin), it will likely do a maximum of three days. Rich red brands like Petite Sirah will open for up to five days.
Do not be shocked if your bottle tastes better after a day oy opening- it could be one of the darker types that improve shortly after opening.
Red wine should be stored in a dark and cool place or refrigerated after opening.
Fortified wine - 28 days
Fortified wines, including the likes of Port, Sherry, and Marsala, can open for impressively long periods.
The brandy usually added in them discourages bacteria growth even after opening, but not forever.
You have just about 4 weeks to consume your bottle if you properly stored it corked and away from light and heat. These two environmental agents tear down the vibrant flavors within hours.
Two particular wines will last you 'forever' when open. These are Madeira and Marsala. They are already oxidized and cooked. You still have to keep them refrigerated, though.
- Rich White Wine - 3-5 days
- Dessert wine - 3-6 days
So, here comes the big question- unlike spirits, why does wine go bad shortly after opening?
Why does wine go bad?
You already know if you open that bottle, you should then consume it within a few days, or else you'll have to discard some of it.
But have you wondered why the wine goes bad? Probably yeah, and just as I promised initially, this is the place to find the answers.
Wine goes bad in two ways:
Firstly, when the acetic acid bacteria metabolize the alcohol, acetic acid and acetaldehyde are produced. These compounds are responsible for the sharp, vinegar-like smell in deteriorating wine.
Secondly, when the alcohol oxidizes, a nutty and bruised fruit taste replaces the original fresh and fruity flavors. The higher the surrounding temperatures, the faster the chemical reactions. Keep everything ounce of your opened wines refrigerated.
How do you tell if your wine has already gone bad?
Besides knowing how long your wine, whether opened or unopened, should stay, there are giveaway signs that can help you conclude if the bottle is beyond saving. We discuss these next.
If left open for long, the wine will go bad and develop a sharp vinegar-like smell. The smell is identical to that of sauerkraut. Wine opened for long may also become stale, often characterized by a nut-like odor. This is similar to what burnt marshmallows would smell like.
If the bottle is unopened and you notice either garlic, cabbage, or brunt rubber smell, the wine has most probably gone bad.
You may also come across a wine that smells like a damp basement, moldy cardboard, or a wet dog. This is mostly an indication of TCA contamination, popularly known as cork taint.
Red and purple wines develop a brownish color if they go bad. Similarly, white wines can change to a golden or opaque color. A change in color is usually an indication that oxidation has taken place. Such wines should be discarded.
You may notice some bubbling in a still wine. The most logical explanation would be that the wine is re-fermenting- too bad! This would be the case if sterilization wasn't done at the time of bottling the wine. The yeasts have begun feasting on the residual sugars.
The first thing to do when you pick up an old bottle should be inspecting it physically. If you notice the cork pushing up past the bottle fringe, or any visible leak, you should be careful with that one.
For bottles that have been open for a while, the wine has probably gone bad and exhibits the above characteristics.
When wine is exposed to heat, the flavor and the look deteriorate. That's why you should never accept wine that has overstayed in the delivery truck.
How do you store your wine to last longer?
To get the best out of your opened and unopened wines, you certainly need to follow some rules. Your wine is much likely to be drinkable after relatively long if you observe the following:
Keep the wine in the dark.
Why else would a cellar be so important? Of course, for some other reasons! Some wine bottles are also made of dark glass to resist UV radiation.
The UV rays cause chemical degradation, altering the taste and vibrancy of the wine. You should have the opened bottles also stored in a dark place.
Boxed wine is already protected from the sun- fair enough.
Keep the wine cool
Just like with light, wine suffers massive degradation when exposed to heat. This might have been the motivation behind the first wine cellar. The ideal temperature for wine storage is 55F. a wine cellar offers a relatively constant range of temperatures, between 53F and 57F, just fine for wine storage.
Invest in a good wine cooler if you do not have an underground basement. These days there are dedicated wine refrigerators in the market, besides other small coolers.
Your opened wine bottles should go into the fringe to maintain chemical actions at their lowest. After all, it ain't maturing further.
Maintain the right humidity
Corked wine bottles require an extra precaution with humidity. If the cork isn't kept humid enough, it will dry out, shrink, and then allow oxygen and bacteria into the wine.
To maintain the right humidity, always store the bottles on their side. The cork will thus keep in contact with the wine to remain damp.
Wrapping it up
At this point, I expect you have decided whether that suspicious bottle is safe for drinking, or if it needs some more test! If the bottle turns out good, you should be able to determine how much time you have before it's stale.
Lastly, you now know how to store your wine best.
Go enjoy, but responsibly.
Underground Wine Merchants was founded by Wine Lovers & For Wine Lovers.
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If you have any questions about what you've read, or about wine in general, feel free to reach out and let us know, or leave a comment below!
Karl Kahale & The Underground Wine Merchants Team