Wine is a popular alcoholic beverage, but if a person does not store it correctly or drink it promptly, it may spoil. Once open, wine typically lasts for a few days. If it goes bad, it may alter in taste, smell, and consistency. In rare cases, spoiled wine can make a person sick.
Many adults of drinking age consume wine, and evidence suggests that moderate consumption may have health benefits. For example,
However, excessive alcohol consumption can harm a person’s health. The
The CDC defines moderate drinking as a maximum of one or two drinks per day for females and males, respectively. One drink equates to a 5-ounce glass of wine with an alcohol content of 12%.
By using the correct storage techniques and knowing the signs that indicate wine spoilage, people can avoid drinking wine that has gone bad.
In this article, we discuss roughly how long different wines last. We also list possible signs of spoilage and explain the risks associated with drinking spoiled wine.
Unopened wine has a longer shelf life than opened wine. Therefore, as long as a person stores their wine properly, it can last a fairly long time. Storing wine correctly may involve keeping it in a cool, dark place and placing the bottle on its side to prevent the cork from drying out.
Below is an estimate of how long certain wines will last past the printed expiry date if a person stores them correctly and leaves them unopened:
- Bottled white wine: 1–2 years
- Bottled rosé: 1–2 years
- Bottled red wine: 2–3 years
- Non-vintage sparkling wine: 3–4 years
- Vintage sparkling wine: 5–10 years
- Fortified wine: decades
Opened wine does not last as long as unopened wine because once a person has opened a bottle of wine, it begins to oxidize. When a bottle is open, the wine inside encounters air, which begins the oxidation process. Oxidation can cause wine to go bad and may turn it into vinegar.
If a person does not intend to finish a bottle of wine, they should minimize how much oxygen and bacteria interact with the wine to make it last longer.
They can do this by placing the cork or screw-top back on the bottle and storing it in a place suitable for the type of wine. For example, people can place white wine in the fridge and red wine in a cool, dark place.
Below is an estimate of how long certain wines may last if a person stores them correctly once they are open:
- Sparkling wine: 1–2 days
- White wine: 3–5 days
- Rosé wine: 3–5 days
- Red wine: 3–6 days
- Fortified wine: 1–3 weeks
Several signs may indicate that a bottle of wine has gone bad. These include:
Changes in color
The first thing that a person can observe is the color of the wine. If the color appears to have changed since opening the bottle, this may indicate spoilage.
For example, a red wine that has gone bad might have a brownish tint, whereas a white wine may darken or have a deep yellow or brownish straw color when it goes bad.
Changes in smell
A person may be able to smell certain aromas if wine has gone bad. These can include a sharp, vinegar-like odor, a damp smell, or an odor similar to that of a barnyard.
If the wine has gone stale, this can also change its smell. Some people may describe stale wine as having a nut-like odor or say that it smells similar to burnt marshmallows or applesauce.
Some wine may go bad before a person opens it, which is often due to the wine being faulty. Faulty wine can have a garlic odor or smell similar to cabbage or burnt rubber.
Changes in taste
A person should not drink wine that has gone bad. However, in some instances, tasting a small amount is a good way to determine whether the wine is still okay to drink.
If wine has gone bad, it may have changed in flavor. Bad wine often has a sharp and sour taste resembling that of vinegar. It may also slightly burn a person’s nasal passage due to the strong odor and flavor.
In some cases, if wine has gone bad, it may have a strong chemical taste, similar to paint thinner.
Unwanted bubbles in the wine
If bubbles are present in a still wine, this suggests that the wine is refermenting. This process usually occurs due to a lack of sterilization and indicates that yeasts may still be active in the wine.
Loose cork or leakage
If the cork is loose, visible above the rim, or noticeably leaking, this may suggest heat damage. This damage may cause subtle changes to the smell and flavor of the wine, making it look and taste duller.
Although a person can drink a small amount of spoiled wine without fearing the consequences, they should avoid drinking large amounts of it.
Typically, wine spoilage occurs due to oxidation, meaning that the wine may turn to vinegar. Although it may taste unpleasant, it is unlikely to cause harm.
However, spoilage due to microbes may result in food poisoning. This type of spoilage is rare but possible.
The symptoms of food poisoning typically include:
- stomach cramps
If a person believes that wine has gone bad, they should simply dispose of it, as it will taste unpleasant and could make them sick.
People should consider the following points when storing wine:
Choose a cool and dark place
It is advisable to store wine in a cool place with a relatively consistent temperature. Temperature changes can affect the quality of the wine.
It is also important to protect the wine from light, so a dark location is the best place to store it.
Store corked bottles horizontally
Storing a bottle on its side allows the wine to stay in constant contact with the cork, preventing it from drying out. If the cork does dry out, it may allow oxygen to pass into the bottle, which can spoil the wine.
This type of spoilage can only affect wines in corked bottles, so a person can store bottles with a screw-top upright.
The right humidity is important
Extremely high or low humidity can also ruin a wine. Anecdotal evidence suggests that a relative humidity of about 60% is ideal for wine storage.
If the humidity is too low, the cork may dry out, potentially allowing oxygen to get into the bottle and spoil the wine. If the humidity is too high, it may encourage the growth of mold, as well as degrading any labels on the wine.
Consider a wine fridge
If a person does not have a convenient storage space that is dark and cool with suitable humidity, they may wish to consider purchasing a wine fridge.
These fridges, which some people may refer to as wine coolers, are not as cold as a standard refrigerator and help maintain the optimal temperature and humidity for wine storage.
Different wines can last for various lengths of time before they spoil. Generally, unopened and correctly stored wine can last for years. After opening a bottle, the wine will usually last for a few days.
Storing wine correctly can help unopened wine last for longer.
Typically, the appearance, smell, and taste of a wine indicate whether it is has spoiled. If a person suspects that wine has gone bad, it is advisable to dispose of it rather than drinking it.