You Are Wondering, Does Wine Go Bad?
We are often asked, "does wine go bad?" There is a lot of confusion about how and how long to store wine. Most wine drinkers are aware that some wines are aged for decades. That leads some to believe that all wine can be put on the shelf and forgotten. Then, ten years down the road, you will have a perfectly aged wine to enjoy. That simply isn't the case. The "juice" in the bottle is susceptible to the effects of oxygen and bacteria just like most fruit-based beverages.
Wine does have a natural preservative. The alcohol in the wine will delay the growth of bacteria. The higher the alcohol content of your wine the stronger the preservative effect. But most wines also contain added preservatives. The most popular preservative is sulfur. That's why bottles of wine in the United States are labeled with the message "contains sulfites". Sulfur helps to prevent wine from going bad through chemical reactions with potential contaminants.
So the question of, "does wine go bad?", is a bit more complicated than it seems. And you certainly don't want to just stick any bottle of wine on the shelf for a long time. Let's explore the issue.
Wine Not? Why Drinking Old Wine Won't Kill You
Let's dig into the idea that all wine can age well and never spoil. When considering the taste of an older bottle of wine, you must also consider its quality. Wines with a higher level of quality will age as they should. Harsh tannins begin to mellow leading to a refined taste and complexity you will not find in a young wine.
Despite decades of aging, these ultra-high-quality wines do not go bad. On the other hand, red wines that are lower quality and relatively inexpensive shouldn't be stored for too long. Also, most white wines will not improve with age. With these types of wine, it is best to finish the bottle within one year or two.
While storing certain vintages of wine through the centuries is not unheard of, it can make for an unpleasant drink. The best way to make sure you enjoy a glass from an old bottle of wine is to ensure that the bottle was unopened and stored properly. If you are wondering "how can I preserve wine", the truth is that an unopened bottle of quality wine is as good as new and will taste as fresh as the day it was purchased.
When asking the question "how can I preserve wine", it is best to leave the wine laying flat, as the cork will remain moistened. If left upright for longer than one or two weeks, you may notice that the cork develops holes or shrinkage. Once the cork deteriorates, air is let into the bottle, causing the wine inside to go bad. You can also consider purchasing a Coravin wine opener. These are not for everyone. The price tag is high for a wine opener, but they are excellent for preserving wine after you "open" the bottle.
When Does Wine Go Bad?
The shelf life of an opened bottle of wine ranges from a few days to a week at most. With a sparkling wine, you will probably notice it loses carbonation after two days. Upon opening a new bottle, the wine should be kept in a wine cooler or wine fridge, sealed tightly with the cork. If the cork doesn't fit, you may want to try a stopper or create a seal with a rubber band and a piece of plastic wrap. There are a range of really unique wine stoppers that are affordable and effective.
You may open a bottle of wine and discover "off" odors. There are a number of reasons that wine develops odd tastes and smells. Most of these are related to bacteria or oxygen contact. These wines will be unpleasant to drink in most cases. The colors, aroma, and flavor will be dull. You will hear terms like cork taint, bottle shock and cork shrinkage as reasons wine has gone bad.
Can Drinking Old Wine Make Me Sick?
When your wine smells strange or rancid, it's a good idea to just pour it out. Also, if you notice that the color is off or a completely different tone, you may want to avoid drinking it. Finally, if you go in for the first sip and you find the wine just tastes weird, it's best to skip this glass.
Inexpensive or not, drinking wine that does "go bad" won't make you sick. When people ask us, "does wine go bad?", they are usually talking about food poisoning. The bacteria levels in wine will not reach this level even when the wine does go bad. There can be adverse reactions to things like the sulfur in wine and any TCA in the wine. These are typically allergic reactions that lead to rashes, hives, and swelling. If you do experience this type of reaction, consult with a doctor.
As you shop for wine, try to choose higher quality bottles if you plan to age the wine. The best bottles of wine have been aged for several years and are even better tasting after they have aged. These aged wines are often saved for special celebrations and occasions. Scientifically, the alcohol in the wine will prevent anything like bacteria from growing. This is why most bottles will be safe to drink, no matter the age.
The Taste of Aged Wine
While you may not get sick from aged wine, you may not always enjoy the taste. Specific wines are made to age better than others. Cheaper bottles that have aged may not make you sick but they likely won't taste very good either. If you are the kind of person that loves fresh sparkling wine, you should avoid keeping the bottle for too long as it will fall flat very quickly.
The best quality wine will have a richer taste. Often times, experts argue that these wines taste much better after they have aged for years. The more mature the wine, the smoother and fuller it will taste. Whether you like this taste or not depends entirely on your preference. For those of you that aren't really wine aficionados, you may find the taste of aged wine to be entirely overwhelming.
As you look through your wine cooler or search through your fridge, don't hesitate to reach for that unopened bottle of wine. What you find on the other end of that cork, however, depends entirely upon your taste preferences, the quality of the wine itself, and your method of storage. So the real answer to the question "does wine go bad?" is a bit of a yes and no. While it won't hurt to try an older bottle of wine, you will know soon enough if you should pour that second glass.
Should I Throw Away My Wine
You may ask, "Why throw away my wine when I can use it as vinegar?" The quest is, does the wine turn to vinegar when left open? The answer is no. The wine will oxidize as it spends time in contact with the air, but it will not turn into vinegar.
So should I throw out my wine after a week? The answer is yes. The quality of the wine will have suffered greatly at that point. You may also be exposing yourself to risk. As with any other food or beverage, you need to handle it properly. You also need to dispose of it when it spoils.
Want to avoid having to throw out your wine?: Use this graphic to figure out the best method of storing each and every bottle.