It’s funny how there are some things you love but cannot finish at once all by yourself. A good example is a cake, and another is wine.
I’ve always thought anything that’s kept in the refrigerator can be kept for a long, I mean, a long time. Not until I realized that my birthday cake that’s a month and ten days had started changing taste a lot. The texture was quite different too.
I wondered: “If cake goes bad in the fridge, how much more is the one that wasn’t kept in the fridge?”
What’s the point I’m trying to make? Every food goes bad no matter how long you keep them, and your wine is not an exception. Simply put, Wines go bad.
There have been controversies about how long wines can be kept before they go bad and we’re here to help. Are you in a fix as regards what to do with that old wine: “Could it be bad already?” or maybe you’re wondering if you can drink your leftover wine: “I can’t even tell the difference between when it’s good or bad”.
The purpose of this article is to provide you with the answers you need.
Why Do Wines Go Bad?
Wines go bad because they are exposed to more oxygen, bacteria, heat, and light. These result in chemical reactions that reduce the quality of the wine. Opened wines are more vulnerable because it is easier for bacteria to act on them. This is why they have lower shelf lives compared to unopened wines.
Unopened wines can last longer. Little wonder you see it written on the bottle that your wine should be kept in “a cool and dark place”.
Storing your wine at a lower temperature helps to reduce oxidation and other chemical reactions, and this keeps the wine fresher for long, especially the opened one.
I guess you’re now wondering why unopened bottles of wine go bad, even when they don’t at least, seem to have exposure to oxygen, light, or bacteria.
The answer is this: unopened wines have a lot to do about their storage. This is why the corks are important and you have to look out for them. Once they have holes in them, exposure and deterioration can begin. This is why the best place to put your unopened wine is the pantry or cellar.
In any case, whether the wine is opened or unopened, the longevity depends on the type of wine (quality) and storage measures put in place. Both matter a lot. Cheaper wines go bad faster compared to more exotic wines, but you can reduce the shelf life of your expensive wine if you’re careless about how you store it. Generally, wines can last 1-20 years (depending on the type of wine and storage).
Let’s now see how long you can keep your wine when it’s opened and when unopened because both cases are peculiar.
How Do You Know Your Wine Is Bad?
Now that you know wines go bad, what signs should you look out for?
To know if a wine has gone bad, there are 3 major ways: thanks to the sense organs.
1. The Eyes
Look out for changes in the color of the wine.
If the color of your wine has changed to brown, then it’s a signal that it’s bad. When a white wine for instance has a deep yellow or brownish straw color, then you have your answer.
2. The Nose
What’s the smell like?
Every wine has it unique but pleasant smell. The bacteria that make the wine go bad also give it a pungent smell. When your wine develops a smell like that of vinegar, then it has gone bad. It could also smell like nail polish remover, just be observant.
3. The Mouth
Anything odd about the taste?
You would most likely not want to try this, but it’s a good way to know. If the wine tastes sharper or more sour than normal, then it’s bad.
How Long Can Opened Wines Be Kept?
Wines cannot be kept for long after they’ve been opened. It is advised that you finish your wine a day or two after opening it. After opening your wine, the quality starts to erode.
If you’re alone in the house or maybe you aren’t so much of a wine freak, then maybe you can keep it for fewer days depending on how well you’re able to keep it tightly sealed in a cool and dark place, or at best in the refrigerator.
As for the type of wine opened, be aware that lighter wines go bad faster than darker ones.
See this list of wines and how long you can keep them after they’ve been opened, and why.
Sparkling Wine: 1-2 days
When you open a bottle of sparkling wine, you would notice that it fizzes after you pop it. That is the carbonation going out. This means that the sulfur oxide is escaping and more oxygen is entering. This is why it lasts for a shorter period and should be consumed almost immediately after opening.
Full-bodied White Wine: 3-5 days
Full-bodied white wines oxidate faster because they were exposed to more oxygen during the aging process. An example is Chardonnay.
Light Wine and Rose Wine: 3-5 days
Light wines have abilities to last long after they’ve been opened, once they are well-sealed in the refrigerator. They can be good up to a week even though by then there would be changes in taste and crispiness.
Red Wine: 3-5 days
For red wines, ‘the more the tannins, the longer it lasts.
Fortified Wine: 29 days after opening
As the name sounds, fortified wines are kind of protected against going bad compared to other wines. The distilled spirits present in them guarantee them some longer days which can be up to a month. A good example is Marsala.
We have an entire article about how or if they do go bad. Read the entire article.
How Long Can You Keep Unopened Wine?
You can consume your unopened wine beyond the expiry date. Yes, you can. Most expiry dates are advised by the manufacturer to state when the product is ‘best consumed’.
Even though you can keep your unopened wine longer for years, you need to check the type of wine it is. In this case, you may not have to be too relaxed.
Check this common list of wines and an estimate of how long they can last while still sealed.
- Sparkling Wine: Can be consumed about 3 years beyond the expiry date.
- White Wine: Can be consumed 1 to 2 years beyond the expiry date.
- Red wine: Can be consumed 2-3 years beyond the expiry date.
- Rose Wine: Can be consumed 2-3 years beyond the expiry date.
- Fortified Wine: Can be consumed a longer period after the expiry date. Can we call this an everlasting wine? Maybe not, but it can last decades. Ports for instance, when unopened, can last indefinitely.
Wines go bad solely as a result of exposure to oxygen. It is after this that bacteria begin to act; breaking them down into alcohol.
Opened wines are best stored in the refrigerator while unopened wine is best in the pantry. To be able to tell if your wine is bad, you need to keep a closer eye on it. Be observant so you can tell if there are changes in any way.
Additionally, you can know if your wine is bad when the red wine tastes sweet or like a dessert wine. That means it’s been exposed to too much heat. Also, if the cork has shifted, it’s a good signal.
Whether your wine is opened or unopened, you can sustain its shelf life if you imbibe a good storage culture.
Read next: Can Beer Go Bad? How Long Beer Lasts