Wine is one of those tasty beverages that only gets better with age, right?
Well, the truth is, as much as we’d like to keep an opened bottle of leftover wine saved for later, that same rule just does not apply. And while unopened bottles of wine do age well, they will eventually go bad.
If you’re wondering how long wine lasts or how to spot whether it has gone bad, then the guide below is for you.
What Are The Signs Of Bad Wine?
A bottle of wine will come with a best-by date, but other than that, there are three ways you can tell if a wine has spoiled: look, smell, and, if you’re feeling brave, taste.
First, look for discoloration. Discoloration indicates the wine has been exposed to too much oxygen and should be thrown out. Red wine changes from a dark red or deep purplish color to brown, while white wine will change from light, transparent color to gold or opaque.
Also, look out for unwanted bubbles. If you spot any, this means the wine has undergone unplanned fermentation.
For unopened bottles, check whether it is corked. Corked wine means heat damage has occurred, and it won’t smell or taste pleasant; in fact, it might not taste of much at all as corked wine dulls the flavor.
To determine if your wine is corked, inspect for a noticeable leak in the cork, or observe if it is protruding beyond the bottle’s edge.
After looking for signs of off-wine, next, give it a smell. An opened bottle of wine that has gone bad smells of vinegar, or if it is stale, it may emit a nutty odor. If you’re testing out a bottle that has been left unopened for a while, watch out for a garlicky or cabbage-like smell.
Lastly, trying a small amount of wine won’t make you ill, but it certainly won’t be a pleasurable experience. Anyhow, bad wine will most likely have a sour or vinegary flavor, and you should avoid drinking large amounts. If it has gone off, the best practice is to discard it immediately.
What Are The Health Risks Of Drinking Bad Wine?
Bad wine may experience an increase in yeast or bacteria. There may also be microbial growth, although this is not usually a problem. It gets worse: drinking bad wine will not only taste awful, but it could also put you at risk of food poisoning, of which the symptoms are stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or fever.
Again, it’s not a hugely common problem, but although the health risks are low, it is still much more sensible to get rid of bad wine.
How Long Does Wine Last?
An unopened bottle of wine has a longer shelf life than an opened bottle and will come with a best-by date. How long it will last is dependent on the type of wine:
- White wine—this will last for the duration of the best-by date plus 1–2 years
- Red wine—best-by date plus 2–3 years
- Cooking wine—lasting a little longer than red or white wine, cooking wine will be fine throughout the best-by date plus 3–5 years
- Fine wine—lasting the longest if stored correctly; you can keep it for up to 10–20 years
An unsealed wine bottle interacts with oxygen, yeast, bacteria, heat, and light, which impact the chemical quality and speed up the spoilage process compared to a sealed bottle. The wine’s shelf life varies depending on its type.
- Sparkling wine: 1–2 days
- Rosé/light white wine: 4–5 days
- Rich white wine: 3–5 days
- Red wine: 3–6 days
- Dessert wine: 3–7 days
- Port: 1–3 weeks
How To Store Wine
Provided the storage conditions are correct, unopened wine will last a long time. You’ll want to keep it in a cool, dark area—away from heat and light sources—on a wine shelf, placed on its side, which will prevent the cork from drying out.
Once opened, ensure the bottle is tightly sealed before placing it in a refrigerator. With sparkling wine, a little tip for maintaining fizziness is to keep a metal spoon or fork in place of where the lid was. But importantly, don’t forget to finish it at most a day after opening!
For still or non-sparkling wine, it is recommended you decant it before you store it away, as this will separate any sediment that may have gathered.
The bottom line: off-wine tastes and smells unpleasant and should be discarded. To avoid drinking wine that has gone bad, finish shortly after purchasing or opening, and keep unopened wine stored properly so you can enjoy it even a few years after the expiration date!