The short answer is: it depends. While an open bottle of wine should be enjoyed within 3-5 days, many unopened wines can last for decades, even hundreds of years if stored right!
Luckily, there are only a few simple tips that you can master to age your unopened wines and have them taste better year after year.
Open bottles of wine oxidize over time, which leads to bland, flat-tasting wine. There are some gadgets you can use to slow down the process, but eventually, all open wine declines in quality. As for unopened bottles, if you’re not careful with them, they can also become oxidized or overheated, making for dull, lifeless versions of their former selves.
In this guide, we’ll go over how long an open bottle of wine lasts, tips for storing your wine, and how to use up wine that’s past its prime!
How Long Does an Open Bottle of Wine Last?
A good rule of thumb is 3-5 days, though that depends on the style of wine. Here’s a quick guide to help you out:
- Sparkling wines: 1-3 days
- Light dry white, sweet white, and rosé wines: 5-7 days
- Dry red wines: 3-5 days
- Fortified dessert and boxes wines: 28 days
Carbonation is quickly lost over time for sparkling wines, so they’re best consumed shortly after opening. You can use sparkling wine stoppers to slow the process and buy you some extra time. A good rule of thumb is the smaller the bubbles, the longer they’ll last.
White and rosé wines, whether dry or sweet, tend to last longer when stored in the refrigerator. The wines will still taste different after the first day, but not enough to make a huge difference. Dry red wines should be enjoyed faster, though the more tannins and acidity, the longer the wine will last.
As for fortified wines, the added sugar and high alcohol help preserve the wine. The more sugar in the wine, the longer the shelf life once opened. The only exception is Madeira, which lasts indefinitely because it has already been exposed to oxygen and heat in the winemaking process.
How to Store Open Wine
Open wine will already lose its flavor over time, but there are some tricks to maximize its shelf life.
Store red and fortified wines in a cool, dark place with a cork: Keeping wine away from UV light or warm spaces is essential for open or unopened wines.
Store white and rosé wines in the refrigerator with a cork: Just like food, keeping wine in the refrigerator is your best bet for prolonging its quality.
Use a vacuum pump: You can buy special wine toppers that work by removing oxygen from the bottle using a pump, which can help prolong the quality by a day or longer.
Use a Coravin: These are a bit pricey, but they’re a great investment if you have expensive bottles of wine you don’t want to commit to opening. It works by inserting a small needle into the bottle, which uses Argon to push out a few ounces of wine without introducing oxygen to the bottle. You should still consume a coravined wine within one month.
What Makes Unopened Wine Go Bad?
Wine is built to last a long time, but if it’s not stored properly, it can become ruined. Here are some of the most common reasons unopened wine goes bad.
It got too hot: If wine is exposed to heat or sunlight, free radicals can develop and oxidize the wine. Solution: Keep wine at around 55°-65°F.
Stored upright: Wine that is stored upright for longer than one year will eventually cause the cork to dry out, allowing oxygen in and ruining the wine. Solution: Store wine sideways or upside down unless you plan on drinking it within one year.
Moved back and forth from the refrigerator: Changing the temperature of a bottle of wine multiple times can cause the cork to shrink. Solution: Keep refrigerated wine in the fridge even if you change your plans.
How to Tell if Your Wine Has Gone Bad
An open bottle of wine that’s past its prime will taste dull and bland compared to the first day. But what about unopened wine? There are a few tell-tale signs that your unopened wine is no longer drinkable.
- It appears cloudy: If the wine was otherwise clear but now looks cloudy, there’s probably some bacterial activity, and the wine should be discarded.
- The color has changed: Aged wines will naturally take on a browner hue, but if the wine is not aged and appears brownish, it’s probably oxidized.
- There are bubbles, and it’s not a sparkling wine: Bubbles in the bottle usually mean a second round of fermentation is happening. For a dry red or white wine that’s not sparkling, this means the wine is probably soured.
- The bottle looks partially empty: An aged bottle that appears less than full usually means the cork has dried out and the wine has evaporated over time.
- It smells and tastes… off: A vinegary, sharp, overly nutty, or cabbage smell means bacteria have soured the wine.
When in Doubt, Cook with It!
Just because you forgot about that open bottle of wine in the back of your refrigerator doesn’t mean you need to pour it down the drain! In fact, leftover open wine can easily be repurposed. Whether it’s adding a splash of Pinot Gris to your pasta dish like our Creamy Cajun Shrimp Pasta or a cup of red wine in your Pomodoro sauce, cooking with wine is a perfect way to elevate your favorite dishes.