Jennifer is passionate about wine. She has worked in the wine industry for 2 years as well as the restaurant industry for over 10 years.
How long wine lasts after you open it relies on a few main factors. The type of wine it is, the amount of residual sugar in it, and how it was stored. Sugar plays a huge role in keeping wine fresh because it acts as a natural preservative. For example, dessert wine or ice wine can be kept open in the fridge for months. Sparkling wine is an exception because it loses its carbonation after a day or two.
There are three things that will make wine go bad a lot quicker: oxygen, light, and heat. Unopened wine should be stored in a cool, dark place. Ideally, open bottles of wine should be stored in the fridge. The only downfall with keeping red wine in the fridge is that it will have to be warmed back to room temperature (or close to it) before you can drink it. That is because red wine loses its flavor when it is cold.
White and Rose Wine
Generally, white and rose wines last five to seven days after being opened if they have been stored properly. You may notice the taste changes slightly after the first day due to oxidation. Oxidation is a chemical reaction in wine that occurs when oxygen comes into contact with alcohol. The fruit flavors in wine will lessen over time but it may still be drinkable for up to a week. A full-bodied white might not last as long because they tend to oxidize quicker. This is because they are exposed to oxygen during the aging process.
Sweeter white and rose wine, on the other hand, can last a lot longer. This is because sugar acts as a natural preservative. Depending on the amount of sugar in the wine, sweet wines can last up to several weeks.
Light-Bodied Red Wine
Most lighter-bodied and table reds will last around three to five days. This is because lighter red wines have lower acidity and tannin which help to naturally preserve the wine. Light reds should be kept in the fridge after opening if you plan to consume it after a day or two.
Full-Bodied Red Wine
Full-bodied red wines have higher acidity and tannin, which help to naturally preserve the wine by slowing the aging process. Because of this, full-bodied red wine can last up to a week or even longer. Some wines will actually improve after the day it was opened. Storing your opened bottles of red wine in a cellar or the fridge will help it last longer.
Sparkling wine will last two to three days at the most after it's opened. After three days the wine may still be drinkable but it will have lost its carbonation. Sparkling wine will taste its best during the first 24 hours. That's because it starts to lose its carbonation as soon as it has been opened. A good tip is to store the bottle upright in your fridge with a proper champagne stopper. Try not to store it on its side if possible. If you store the bottle on its side, it will lose its carbonation faster.
Fortified and Dessert Wine
Fortified wine, like port and sherry, can last much longer than other wines. If stored properly, they can last several months. Some say even years. Madeira and Marsala wines will never go bad. That's because they are already oxidized and cooked.
Dessert wine can also last a lot longer than other wines because of the high amount of sugar. Sugar helps by naturally preserving the wine. The sweeter the dessert wine, the longer it will last after opening it. As with other types of wine, it will last the longest if you refrigerate it.
How to Tell if Wine Has Gone Bad
The first thing you will notice when a wine has gone bad is a change in color. Pour a small amount of the wine into a clear glass and take a look at it. Red wine will start to look brownish (unless its a fortified wine which is already aged and brownish in color). Keep in mind that full-bodied, aged reds will have a slight brown hue and that is normal. White wine will go from a light white color to golden color when it is starting to go bad. Sometimes it may even start to look cloudy. White wine should be transparent so if it doesn't look clear, you know something is off.
The next thing to do is smell the wine. If the wine has gone bad you may notice a funky smell that was not there before. Lookout for tart, sharp, or even sulfur or acetone types of smells. You might even notice an earthy or barnyard smell (in some varietals like Baco Noir and Marechel Foch, this is normal).
Lastly, if the appearance and smell of the wine do not put you off, you could try to taste it. You should be able to tell if a wine does not taste right. If it doesn't taste bad to you then you can go ahead and drink it (don't worry, bad wine will not hurt you). If the wine has started to turn you will probably notice a sharp or sour flavor that seems out of balance with the other flavors. You may also notice the fruit flavors taste a bit duller or the wine just tastes flat.
How to Prevent Wine From Going Bad
There are some things that you can do to keep your opened wine fresh longer. Number one, you should make sure that you cork your wine properly. While the dry side of the cork may be easier to get back in the bottle, it's best to use the same side that was in the bottle before it was opened. The dry side of the cork may have become contaminated which can taint the wine you are trying to save.
Also, it's important to store your wine upright in a cool, dark place preferably a refrigerator. Storing a bottle of wine on its side actually exposes the wine to more air which will allow it to oxidize quicker. Storing the bottle upright will not allow as much of the wine to come in contact with air, therefore keeping it fresh longer. The cold will also help keep wine fresh longer.
Another tip is to pour your leftover wine into a smaller wine bottle or other sealed container. Try to make sure the container you use is full to the top with wine and seal it well. The less air that is allowed in the container, the less the wine will become oxidized. The wine will last longer because it is not in contact with oxygen.
If you are finding that you are often storing unfinished bottles of wine, you might want to invest in a product called the Wine Squirrel. The Wine Squirrel is a decanter that creates an air-tight seal after you pour your wine into it. It works by inserting the seal into the decanter and pushing it down until it reaches the level of the wine. It even allows you to store it on its side as it does not leak.
Debra Roberts from Ohio on November 02, 2020:
This is awesome and something I can never quite figure out! I have a red win hub that's really popular. Would you like to cross-share our links? I'll happily add this to the bottom of mine (it's had over 37,000 reads in just one year) https://delishably.com/beverages/Red-Wine-Benefits...
FlourishAnyway from USA on November 02, 2020:
Excellent information to a question I’m sure many people have!
Liz Westwood from UK on November 01, 2020:
This is a excellent article, which answers a question that I have asked. In the past, open bottles of wine were not a issue in our house, as they usually got used jn one sitting, often with a meal. Now, however, we are trying to moderate our alcohol intake and try to make wine last a little longer once opened. I had always assumed that sparkling wine would need using immediately after opening.