Does Wine Go Bad? If So, How Quickly?
Are you one of those people who can’t finish a bottle of wine in one sitting? Don’t worry, you’re normal. Me? Not so much. How long a bottle of wine lasts after opening it is one of the most common questions I’ve gotten since receiving my WSET certification. Especially from those who are just beginning to explore the world of wine.
While a common question, there’s also no one all-encompassing answer. For the purposes of this article, we’ll be discussing how long wine lasts once you’ve popped the cork. Note that even un-opened wines have expiration dates as well, but that’s another topic.
Factors That Affect the Longevity of Wine Once Opened
How quickly a bottle of wine goes bad after it has been opened depends on a variety of factors. The most influential factors include:
What style of wine it is
How the wine was made
How the wine is stored
The temperature the wine is stored at
Again, this depends on the style of wine you’re consuming. Take a look below at a number of common wine styles and what their typical expiration dates are. Note, however, that even if a wine may appear to have spoiled, they are still safe to consume — though we don’t recommend it.
3 — 5 Days
Dry red wines, such as your typical Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or Tempranillo will last on average between 3 – 4 days when stored in a cool and dark environment. Worth noting is that wines produced from grapes that yield a final product with elevated acidity and or tannic content will last longer. These elements typically act as natural preservatives. Oxidation is however ultimately inevitable, so after 5 days it’s probably worth tossing an open bottle since the fresh fruit and balanced flavors will have lost their luster at that point. Note that lighter-bodied reds, such as a Gamay-based wine, Beaujolais or Pinot Noir will typically expire faster.
An exception to this, however, is if you utilize a wine vacuum sealing device, which can extend the life of a red wine by up to a week.
2 — 4 Days
The reason why the range for white wines is so large has to do with the fact that certain grape varieties and blends are crafted and aged differently prior to distribution. Some fuller-bodied whites, such as many Chardonnay’s — especially those aged in oak — are exposed to oxygen for longer periods before they are bottled. Since they’ve already had a significant dose of oxygen prior to bottling, once a cork has been popped, they tend to oxidize more quickly.
On the other hand, your light-bodied whites, especially those that are slightly effervescent (such as Vinho Verde), tend to have little exposure to oxygen prior to bottling. They can last upwards of 7 days, but personally I won’t drink them past 5.
1 — 3 Days
Sparkling Wines — such as Champagne, Prosecco & Spanish Cava — are attractive to consumers because of their effervescence. Within just a couple of days, the carbon dioxide that produces those delicious bubbles begins to dissipate. That’s because these wines, typically produced using one of two methods, receive virtually no exposure to oxygen prior to bottling in order to preserve their CO2.
Once you’ve popped that bottle, drink it within a couple of days before the fizz goes away. As a general rule of thumb, Champagne will retain its carbonation longer because of its method of production, while the popular Prosecco tends to lose its effervescence more quickly.
4 — 7 Days
In general, wines with some degree of residual sugar tend to keep slightly longer than purely dry wines. Sweet Riesling, Rosé, Moscato, Sauternes and others that are classically produced sweet could last upwards of a weeks time. Consider storing these wines in your refrigerator where they are sheltered from heat and light.
5 Days — 1 Month
Fortified wines are a bit of an anomaly. While typically most fortified wine products are fortified with spirits and aged in oak, there are certain styles of fortified wines that receive little exposure to oxygen during their aging processes. Vintage Ports, for instance, undergo a relatively short aging process with little oxygen exposure. These wines should be consumed within 5 days to preserve flavor.
On the other hand, Sherry and other Port styles that are aged at lengths of 5 years or more and have already been exposed to large amounts of oxygen can last up to a month once opened. Note that fortified wines should be stored in cool places as well with no direct exposure to sunlight.
How Can I Make My Open Wine Last Longer? What Causes Wine to go Bad?
This is actually easier to do than one might expect. Currently, the best two ways to make open wine last longer is to utilize a vacuum seal and a cool storage temperature. Yes, you can store wine in the fridge with a cork, but given the fact that the cool temperature actually contracts the cork structure and ultimately allows the wine to oxidize faster, it’s not a recommended method.
The Correct Method
Purchase a cheap vacuum wine sealer. This simple to use device allows you to extract excess oxygen from the bottle and create an air-tight seal, increasing the longevity of a bottle of wine by up to a week. If the alcohol present in wine is not allowed to oxidize, or oxidizes more slowly, the life of the wine will increase and the best flavor and aromatic characteristics of the wine will remain present for longer periods. These vacuum-based wine stoppers will increase the life of any style of wine, but remember that Sparkling Wine and White Wines tend to go bad more quickly than a Red Wine or a Fortified Wine.
In conjunction with using a vacuum-sealing wine stopper, store your opened bottles of wine in the fridge. Cooler temperatures inhibit the ability for naturally occurring bacteria present in all wines to create Acetic Acid, also known as Volatile Acidity. It is this naturally occurring process that ultimately turns wine into vinegar. A smell that most of us are very familiar with. Regardless of whether or not a bottle of wine has been opened, consider using an energy efficient wine cooler that maintains a consistent temperature to increase the life of all of your wines.