Some of us have an aversion to leaving a bottle of wine unfinished. We are plagued with questions like “what if this tastes like vinegar next week?”, which is totally understandable if you have splashed out a considerable amount of cash on a bottle and don’t want to see it all end up going down the drain. Perhaps you opened a bottle in the early hours of the morning when your eyes were bigger than your stomach, or maybe you just needed a little for a nice white wine sauce or something similar. Either way, when faced with that same bottle of wine staring back at you the next day, it does beg the question: “Will this be anywhere near as nice as it was yesterday?”
Unfortunately, there’s no catch all answer to this question that will work in every eventuality. Naturally, an unopened bottle of wine will store totally differently to an opened one. A red will also store completely differently to a white. There are infinite variations which will influence how quickly your wine goes bad. So, instead of claiming we have a simple answer to how long wine will last, we will instead give you a number of tips that will ensure that your wine keeps for longer, and that you know when it has all gone wrong and needs to be discarded. So without further ado, here’s a quick guide that will ensure that you rarely, if ever, have to pour wine down the sink again.
The Best Way to Store Wine
The thing to remember about storing wine is that there are three elements in particular that can totally ruin your wine, and fast! These are heat, light, and air. This means that, generally speaking, any technique you can think of that keeps these things away from your wine is most likely going to be a winner.
Opened white wine: The best way to keep white wine, in particular, is to straight away recork and refrigerate it. To avoid having to try jamming the original cork back in, consider getting a reusable stopper. These are always fit for purpose and do the job better than the original cork. By doing this, you are not exposing your bottle to any excess oxygen, light, or heat, and it will most likely taste just as good the next day as a result. In most cases this will buy you between 3 and 5 days, with sparkling wine losing its fizz as soon as one day in.
Opened red wine: Red wine, despite preferring to be stored in a warmer climate than the fridge in its unopened state, will keep much better after opening if subjected to the same treatment as the white. So, quickly cork it and pop it back into the fridge where it should store for anywhere from 3 to 7 days.
How Long Does Wine Last?
There is a large amount of variation in how long wine will store in the fridge. However, in most cases the ranges below hold true if the bottle was recorked quickly after the last glass was taken.
Red Wine: between 3 and 7 days
White Wine: between 3 and 5 days
Sparkling Wine: 1 to 2 days (loses fizz after 1st day)
Dessert Wine: between 3 and 7 days
Rose: 4 to 5 days
Stronger types of wine, such as port and fortified wines, can last for as long as three weeks after opening.
Wine Storage Tips
Unopened Wine Storage
For those of you out there who intend to curate their own wine collection, storage technique is absolutely vital. Stored incorrectly, the world’s finest vintage wines can degenerate into undrinkable plonk. Conversely, a properly stored bottle of wine can be known to improve over decades and even centuries, growing in value as it sits there. If this is your intention, we have a few pointers below:
Store your bottles horizontally
For long term storage, keeping the cork moist is extremely important. A dried out cork will eventually begin to shrink and invite seepage, causing your wine to age prematurely. This can potentially ruin a good bottle if left unchecked. It also maximizes space, so it is a good habit to get into.
Make sure you store them at the correct temperature
Temperature regulation is perhaps the most important aspect of storing wine. Too hot or too cold and your wine can spoil pretty quickly. In general, the best temperature to store most wines at is 13 Celsius, but this can vary for different varieties. Make sure to check the bottle to see what temperature suits each one best. This temperature should be kept as stable as possible to avoid the cork expanding or contracting in the bottle.
Protect your wine from harmful light
Whether you are storing a bottle for a week or for a decade, it is vital that no UV light penetrates the bottle as this can destroy the delicate compounds that make your wine what it is.
Purchase a wine fridge. Don’t use a regular fridge.
A regular fridge is designed to keep your food dry and cold, which isn’t the best atmosphere for wine to develop in. A wine fridge, on the other hand, is designed to keep the bottles at the correct level of humidity and maintain the temperature at a consistent 10 to 15 degrees. Wine fridges may sound like a decadent investment, but there are some perfectly reasonable examples out there for relatively cheap.
Signs That Your Wine May Have Gone Off
A gone off wine is reasonably easy to detect and identify as it tends to give very clear signs. The first thing to look for is a change in colour. In both opened and unopened bottles, red wines that are gone beyond drinkable tend to adopt a brown hue whereas white wines adopt a yellow tinge. These colour changes indicate that too much oxygen has penetrated the wine and that it is best to discard the contents.
Failing this, on most occasions the odour will let you know if the wine is gone bad. A wine that has been left open too long will adopt a sharp smell which is similar to vinegar. Unopened bottles, on the other hand, can even smell like garlic when they have become undrinkable. Drinking gone off wine can be harmful to your health, so if you notice any of these signs it is best to exercise caution and discard the bottle.
Should Wine be Refrigerated?
An opened bottle of wine should always be recorked and refrigerated at the first possible opportunity. The longer it is left open, the longer it has to be tarnished by oxygen and other harmful elements. Likewise, unopened bottles of wine should ideally either be stored in a wine fridge, or in a cool dark space on their side.
Wine Storage, Sell-by Dates, and Other Related Questions
How long does wine last after bottling?
If stored correctly, there is no reason that a decent bottle of wine can’t last in excess of a century. In one particular example of this, the Speyer wine bottle, dating from the Roman Empire 1,700 years ago is considered to be still drinkable by many. That being said, few of us have that kind of patience!