Sometimes, unopened wine still tastes good after many years, but it can also go bad fast. What is the shelf life of wine?
Opened wine goes bad faster than unopened wine - days or weeks, not years or decades. Some types of wine go bad faster than others. You can keep your wine fresh for longer if you store it properly.
Unopened wine lasts for a year or two (white wine), a few years (red wine), several years (cooking wine), or a decade or two (fine wine). A dark and cool wine cellar can keep fine wine good for more than a decade. Opened wine should be put in the fridge to keep it fresh for a few days.
You can smell or just look at wine to tell if it is expired or not. Since drinking a small amount of expired wine is harmless, you can taste it to see if it is still good. There are many tricks you can use to keep wine good for longer.
In my experience, a dark and cool place is required if you want to keep your wine fresh for years. Regardless of the wine's quality, it will stop tasting good quickly if you either expose it to light or store it at room temperature.
Does Wine Taste Better if it is Very Old?
You might have heard that "the older wine is, the better it tastes," - but that is not always true. Very old wine may have very little flavor left. Like other foods and drinks, it expires.
Like honey and grain, wine lasts for a long time, especially if you store it properly. However, if you want a bottle of wine to still taste good after more than a year or two, you have to store it properly. You do not need a large wine cellar; a smaller dark and cool place will do.
Is it Safe to Consume Wine After the Expiration Date?
Usually, expired wine is harmless. Even if it tastes expired, it is probably still safe for you to drink, or at least taste. If it still tastes good, it is safe to drink it.
How Long Does Wine Last if You Don't Open It?
Unopened wine can last anywhere from a year to twenty years. It depends on the type of wine, the wine's quality, and how you store it. Some types of wine last much longer than others.
Unopened red wine lasts for 2 or 3 years. White wine doesn't even last that long - only a year or two. Some types of red or white wine last significantly longer than average. Cooking wine lasts for three or five years.
The idea that wine tastes better if it is older can be true if you are talking about fine wine. Fine wine, if stored properly, may taste better after five or ten years than it did when it was new. Ordinary wine does not improve after a few months or a year and should be used up reasonably quickly.
What About Opened Wine?
Instead of lasting for more than a year, opened wine lasts for less than a week. Different types of wine still last longer than others, but most of them expire in a week or less. An exception to this is port wine, which can last for more than a week (but rarely a month) after you open it.
After you open a bottle, bacteria, oxygen, and yeast will immediately start affecting your wine. If you re-cork the wine securely and store it lying down, it may last longer. Put the other side of the cork in the bottle when you re-cork it; that may give you a bit more time.
Oxygen makes wine expire faster. If you pour the wine into a smaller bottle to minimize the amount of air it is exposed to, it will last longer. Consider buying smaller bottles of wine if your wine often expires before you finish it.
How Long Does Sparkling Or White Wine Last?
Nothing expires faster than a bottle of sparkling wine that has been opened already. It only takes one or two days for the wine to taste bad.
Light white wine doesn't expire quite as fast - it will stay good for four or five days after you open it. It takes three or five days for rich white wine to lose its taste. Keep it in the fridge with a cork to keep it fresh for relatively long.
Red wine only lasts a little longer than white wine, about 3-6 days after you open it. Like all wines, it turns into something that tastes more like vinegar not too long after you open it. Tannins and acids in red wine allow it to last a little longer.
Dessert Wine, Port Wine, and Fortified Wine
A bottle of dessert wine can last for up to a week after you open it, although it may only last three days. Some dessert wines may last much longer than a week if they have been oxidized and fried. Port wine is relatively long-lasting. It can easily last a week, and sometimes even three weeks after you open it.
If you store fortified wine in a good spot (dark and cool) and put the cork back in securely, it might last for 28 days before expiring. "Bag in a box" wine may also last for that long if you keep it refrigerated.
Expired Wine Changes Color
If you suspect that your wine might have expired, look for a difference in color compared to the same kind of wine when it is new. Any noticeable color change usually means your wine is expired.
Wine expires in part because it does not stay the same when exposed to oxygen. Just as over-exposure to oxygen weakens the wine's taste, it also changes the wine's color.
A red wine that begins with a purplish color will turn brown over time as the oxygen changes it. Light, mostly clear-colored wines darken over time and become orangeish. Fermentation is necessary to create wine, but it can continue to ferment in the bottle, ruining the taste and color.
Expired Wine Smells Different
Both wine and vinegar are made in a similar way, and you can even turn expired wine into vinegar if you want to do this. Unfortunately, your wine will become more similar to vinegar over time even if you don't want it to.
If your wine tastes like vinegar, it is definitely expired. Some people also compare the smell of expired wine to sauerkraut. Don't overestimate how long your unopened or opened wine will last.
Expired Opened vs. Unopened Wine
A bottle of wine that slowly goes bad even though it has never been opened smells worse than stale opened wine. Expired unopened wine may smell and taste like cabbage, garlic, or even burnt rubber.
Wine that goes stale after being opened doesn't smell or taste like burnt rubber. Instead, it smells or tastes like nuts, burnt marshmallows, or applesauce. Either way, it won't taste good to drink the wine.
Can You Taste Bad Wine?
If you aren't sure whether your wine is expired, you might taste it to make sure. If it tastes sour, sort of like applesauce, or in some other way bad, the wine is expired.
Since wine does not rot in a way that makes it dangerous, tasting it is harmless. Drinking a small amount of bad wine almost certainly won't hurt you. If it is more than a little bad, you will be able to tell by the smell before you taste it anyway.
You Can Tell By the Cork
Sometimes, merely looking at the cork is enough to tell if the wine has gone bad. If the cork is being pushed out of the bottle, that is a bad sign. The wine may be fermenting and producing gas.
Bubbles are another sign that wine has expired. While bubbles in sparkling wines are normal, bubbles in other wines are the result of fermentation. If you can see bubbles, it may already no longer be good to drink.
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker