Are you a wine enthusiast and wondering how long your red wine lasts once it is opened? The shelf-life of your wine depends on several factors, like how it was stored and how often you open the bottle.
In this article, we’ll discuss those factors and provide tips on keeping your wines properly to maximize their shelf life!
How Long Does Red Wine Last?
The rule of thumb is, if an opened bottle of red wine is kept in a cool and dark place with a cork or a wine stopper, it can last for 2 to 5 days.
The red wine shelf life increases the more tannic and acidic the red wine is. Tannin is a compound found in grape seeds, stems, and skins that helps preserve wine from oxygenation while increasing its ageability.
Because white wines are made without skins and seeds, some grape varietals have more natural tannin than others, like red wines.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Nebbiolo are red wines with naturally higher tannin levels. A light red wine with low tannin levels, such as Pinot Noir, will keep for two to three days after opening, while higher tannin wines should last for up to five days if handled carefully.
Some overly acidic and tannic wines, or wines that are yet to completely mature, will even improve the day after opening.
After opening red wines, store them in a chiller or a dark, cool spot. If you don’t have a chiller, keeping the wine in the fridge is preferable to leaving it out in a 70°F (21°C) room. You can also use leftover red wine in cooking if you don’t want to consume it.
What Happens to a Red Wine Bottle After You Uncork It?
Wines are stored in their bottles with barely any air contact. Before the wine is corked, the winemakers will eliminate any remaining air by filling the bottle with an inert compound gas like nitrogen or argon. The winemakers typically aim for the bottle to have fewer than 1 part per million (PPM) of oxygen.
Once corked or screw-capped, very little (if any) oxygen gets in. Years of debates have raged over whether or not corks let air over time. Ultimately, scientists have discovered that the average cork does allow a tiny amount of air in the first year but considerably less after that.
When you open a wine bottle, the process of aeration begins, and it leads to oxidation, which causes the wine’s color to alter and its fruity flavor to fade. It also eliminates aromas and causes a loss of Sulphur Dioxide, a compound that helps preserve the wine.
Even if the bottle is re-corked, the process will continue because no closure is airtight, and oxygen has already entered the bottle. The good news is that while oxidation is unfavorable in large quantities, it can be helpful to wine in small amounts. It occurs naturally when the wine ages in the barrel and bottle.
Experts will decant or allow a great wine to aerate for a few hours if it hasn’t aged long enough or if it still tastes too tannic and astringent. Doing so helps to improve the flavor by mellowing it and allowing undesirable aromas to disperse. Swirling one’s wine glass is also a practical way to aerate, enabling the drink to «open up» or «breathe.”
Even with medium-quality bottles, wine connoisseurs will open and taste them for a few days to see how the flavor develops. So depending on various conditions, you can sometimes drink a bottle of wine up to a week after opening it if you limit the oxidation.
Factors that Affect Wine Oxidation
1. The Amount of Air it was Exposed to
The key to extending the life of a wine is to prevent exposing it to air. An opened bottle that’s re-corked immediately has significantly less air than one that’s been left exposed overnight or decanted.
A nearly full re-corked bottle contains considerably less air than an almost empty re-corked one. On the other hand, an opened bottle sitting on its side in the refrigerator creates a substantially larger surface area for air exposure.
A bottle with a missing cork should be sealed with foil or plastic wrap rather than left exposed. There is no universal rule, but the less air exposure the wine has, the longer it will taste fantastic.
2. The Place Where the Wine Bottle is Stored
Wine oxidation is accelerated by heat and slowed by lower temperatures. Exposure to light plays a role as well. UV rays pass easily through both clear and green bottles. They trigger a Sulphur-releasing reaction that changes the wine’s aroma, a crucial component of its flavor.
Red wine bottles that have been opened should be kept in the refrigerator. It is both cold and dark inside to control oxidation.
If you’re worried about drinking your red wines too cold, let them sit for a few minutes at room temperature before drinking. If there’s no time, you can warm them up in the microwave for five seconds.
3. The Wine’s Flavor Profile
Wines with higher tannin or acid content tend to last longer, as acids and tannins need to be softened before they taste their best. Any wine can be acidic, and the way to tell is if it tastes zippy, zingy, or sharp.
Tannins are derived from the grape skins during the winemaking process; thus, they’re usually found in red wines and some rosé and white wines. They are the reason for that dry aftertaste.
Suppose you find a wine to be excessively acidic or tannic. In that case, there’s a good chance you’ll like it a lot better the next day, as oxidation helps to mellow such characteristics.
Natural and organic wines, on the whole, contain higher acidity and tannins, as well as a lower perceived sweetness so that they can last longer than their mass-produced counterparts.
On the other hand, fruit flavors fade first, so wines that appear sweet and fruity on day one will typically have lost their charm the next day.
4. If the Wine is Aged in Oak Barrels
Wines aged in oak barrels feature a vanilla scent and a velvety smoothness on the palate. Oak can be beneficial when balancing bold, jam-like, fruity notes and higher alcohol levels.
However, because fruit characteristics in a wine are the first to fade, oaky wine might quickly taste like oak water.
5. The Type of Grape Used in Winemaking
Some grapes, notably Pinot Noirs, have a reputation for being fragile. This predominant grape of red Burgundies is dubbed the «heartbreak wine» because it is so finicky that even bottles from renowned winemakers might have deficiencies.
There can be a considerable quality disparity within a single case of wine. Other wines derived from lighter red grapes may decline more quickly as well.
On the other hand, Cabernet Sauvignons, Brunello, Barolos, and Syrah tend to be the most tannic grapes, producing the most robust wines. These wines are lovely as is, although they may improve with a few days of oxidation.
How Long Do Other Types of Wines Last Once Open?
An opened bottle of sparkling wine can last for 1 to 3 days in the fridge with a sparkling wine stopper. After opening, sparkling wines quickly lose their carbonation.
Like Cava or Champagne, traditional style sparkling wines would last longer than tank method sparkling wines, such as Prosecco. When traditional-style wines are bottled, they have more bubbles in them, which is why they last longer.
Light White and Rosé Wine
When stored in the refrigerator, most light white and rosé wines will last for up to a week. As the wine oxidizes, you’ll notice a slight shift in flavor after the first day. The wine’s overall fruit quality will often decrease, becoming less bright.
Full-Bodied White Wine
This type of wine can last for 3 to 5 days in the fridge with a cork. Full-bodied white wines, such as oaked Chardonnay and Viognier, oxidize relatively quickly because they were exposed to more oxygen during the aging process before bottling.
It is best to keep opened bottles of full-bodied white wines corked and stored in the refrigerator. If you love this type of wine, investing in vacuum caps would be a great idea.
Opened bottles of fortified wines can last for 28 days if it is in a cool and dark place and is corked. Because brandy is added to fortified wines like Port, Sherry, and Marsala, they have a significantly extended shelf life.
While these wines appear fantastic when exhibited on a high shelf, exposure to light and heat will cause them to lose their brilliant flavors more rapidly.
Because they’ve already been oxidized and cooked, Madeira and Marsala are the only wines that will last the longest once opened.
To emphasize, the sweeter the dessert wine is, the longer it would last once opened. The exact temperature-based requirements apply here; therefore, they should be kept in the refrigerator.
How to Store an Opened Red Wine Bottle?
After every pour into your glass, re-cork the wine. Keep the open wine bottle away from the light and at room temperature.
In most situations, even red wines benefit from using a refrigerator to keep them fresher for longer. Position the wine upright to reduce the surface area exposed to oxygen to get the best results.
Can You Refrigerate or Freeze Red Wine Once Opened?
Yes, you certainly can refrigerate and freeze wine. When you place an open bottle in the fridge, you keep it at a controlled temperature and in a dark environment. The cooler temperature will also slow the oxidation.
If you don’t have access to a chiller or a wine refrigerator and you reside in a country with a hotter climate, you may store a corked yet unfinished bottle in the fridge. Just remember to bring it out an hour before serving to allow it to come to room temperature.
Why Does an Open Bottle of Red Wine Go Bad?
Wines can go bad in two ways once they’ve been opened. The first process involves acetic acid bacteria consuming the alcohol in wine and converting it to acetic acid and acetaldehyde. The wine takes on a harsh, vinegar-like aroma as a result of this.
The alcohol also might oxidize, resulting in a nutty, bruised fruit flavor that detracts from the wine’s fresh and fruity qualities. Because these are both chemical reactions, the lower the temperature a bottle of wine is kept, the slower they will occur.
How to Tell If an Opened Bottle of Wine Has Gone Bad
Pour a small amount into your glass and check for the following things:
The wine has a cloudy appearance and leaves a film in the bottle.
Numerous wines are murky to start with, but if they are clear before and later turn cloudy, this could indicate microbial activity within the bottle.
It will start to brown and turn a different color. When exposed to oxygen, wine browns similarly to an apple. The browning of wine isn’t always a bad thing; there are some fantastic «tawny» wines out there. It will, however, inform you how much oxidative stress the wine has experienced.
It could have a few tiny bubbles in it.
The bubbles are the result of an unplanned second fermentation in the bottle. Yes, in a way, you’ve just produced sparkling wine. Unfortunately, it won’t be as enjoyable as Champagne; instead, it’ll be strangely sour and spritzy.
A wine bottle that has gone bad due to being left exposed has an abrasive and harsh aroma. It’ll smell sour and medicinal, like nail polish remover, vinegar, or paint thinner.
These smells result from chemical processes when the wine is exposed to heat and oxygen, causing bacteria to thrive and produce acetic acid and acetaldehyde.
To get it out of the way, drinking a wine that has «gone bad» won’t hurt you, but it’s probably not a good idea to consume it. A wine that has gone bad due to being left open has a harsh acidic flavor comparable to vinegar.
It will likely burn your nasal passages in the same way horseradish does. Because of the oxidation, it also often has caramelized applesauce-like flavors.
Will Drinking Wine That Has Gone Bad Make You Sick?
Unlike most foods sitting in your fridge for a week, older wines are safe to drink. That bottle may have lost its flavor, taste, and brightness, but whether or not you appreciate it is entirely up to your palate.
There is no such thing as expiration dates when it comes to wine. It isn’t like a bottle of milk that should be discarded after the expiration date has passed. Wine ages slowly, and if stored correctly, it will continue to age.
If there’s an opened bottle of wine in your fridge that looks questionable, you can run it through the three-step test we mentioned earlier. If it fails all of the tests, then maybe it’s time to let it go.
The Drinking Window for Wine
Consider wine in the same way you would an apple. The wine undergoes a process known as micro-oxygenation while in the bottle.
Bits of oxygen permeates the closure and operate on the wine’s organic compounds, gradually ripening and breaking it down. When you expose an apple to air, the same thing happens.
Every second in the bottle, the wine receives more micro-oxygenation. It becomes riper and more developed until it reaches its «peak» of optimal drinkability.
And after it reaches its peak, it rapidly declines. A wine’s journey is similar to an apple, which gets its peak of ripeness before turning brown, squishy, and mushy.
When a bottle of wine is opened or uncorked, it is exposed to much more oxygen, significantly speeding up the evolution process.
That’s why you only have a limited amount of time to enjoy it at its best. Although wine that has passed its prime may taste flat or stale, it is not dangerous to drink. Feel free to consume it as long as it tastes good for you.
How Long Does Red Wine Last Unopened?
Wines go through many different processes before they’re bottled, so predicting when they’ll «expire» is tricky. Most red wines possess a shelf life of 2 to 10 years in ideal storage conditions. This is also influenced by the wine’s acid, sugar, and tannin content.
Tannins are chemicals that help protect the wine from oxidation while also enhancing its ageability. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah/Shiraz, and Nebbiolo are red wine types with greater tannin levels by nature.
Some red wines are bottled to be kept for a more extended period than others.
Bolder red wines like Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Super Tuscans, unlike Beaujolais, can undoubtedly be aged for 10 to 20 years. Cabernet Sauvignon, Amarone, Brunello di Montalcino, Barolo, and red Bordeaux are among the wines that can age for more than 20 years.
Factors that Affect Storage of Unopened Wine
Wine can be pretty vulnerable to a variety of external factors. You must ensure that your wine is preserved in the proper conditions for it to live to its full potential. These are some of the factors to be considered when storing your wines:
- Light – Compounds present in wines react to bright light, such as sunlight or artificial light, spoiling the wine before you even think about opening it.
- Temperature – If the temperature is too warm, the wine will age more quickly. If the temperature is too low, the wine might freeze.
- Vibration – Even the tiniest vibration in a bottle of wine can wreak havoc. This will mix up the sediments, causing your wine to lose its aroma or become overly sweet.
- Humidity – When the cork dries out, additional oxygen gets into the bottle of wine. Mold will form on the cork if it is excessively humid, resulting in wine spoilage.
You must store unopened bottles of red wine properly to ensure that they remain safe and drinkable.
- Wine Rack – It is the most practical way to store your wine horizontally in cooler climates. This guarantees that each bottle is completely airtight.
- Wine Fridge – In hotter climates, storing the wine bottles in a wine fridge or cabinet will help them age correctly by maintaining a consistent temperature.
- Wine Cellar – If you’re a wine collector who wants to keep hundreds of bottles of wine at home, a wine cellar or a remodeled wine room is the ideal option. This option, however, is costly.
- Professional Wine Storage Facility – Using a professional wine storage facility might be a better option than spending a lot of money building a cellar in your home, which can be difficult to expand as your wine collection grows. These facilities are designed to store your wine in an ideal environment, with insurance and a staff of professionals on hand to ensure everything is secure.
We’ve discussed the various factors influencing how long your red wine will last once it is opened. Follow these tips to keep your wines fresh for as long as possible, so they are ready when you want them!
Did you find this article helpful? Let us know in the comments below!