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How Long Does Wine Really Last After Opening?

Jennifer lives in wine country and is passionate about wine. She has also worked in the wine and restaurant industry for over 10 years.


How long wine lasts after opening depends on the type of wine, how it was stored, and how much residual sugar there is. Sugar acts as a natural preservative, which helps to keep the wine fresh. Dessert or ice wine can be stored open in the fridge for months. Sparkling wine is an exception because its carbonation fades after a few days.

Wine spoils much faster when exposed to oxygen, light, and heat. Unopened wine should be kept in a cool, dark place. Open bottles of wine should ideally be kept in the fridge. The only disadvantage of storing red wine in the fridge is that it will need to be warmed to room temperature (or close to it) before drinking. This is because red wine loses its taste when it's cold.

White and Rose Wine

If properly stored, white and rose wines generally last five to seven days after being opened. Because of oxidation, the flavour may alter slightly after the first day. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that occurs in wine when oxygen comes into contact with alcohol. The fruit notes will fade over time, but the wine may still be drinkable for up to a week.

A full-bodied white wine may not last as long because it oxidizes more quickly. This is because they are exposed to oxygen during the ageing process. Sweeter white and rose wines, on the other hand, may keep for much longer This is because sugar acts as a natural preservative. Sweet wines can be kept for several weeks depending on the amount of sugar in them.


Light-Bodied Red Wine

Most lighter-bodied and table red wines only last three to five days. This is because lighter red wines contain less acidity and tannin, which help to naturally preserve the wine. Light reds should be refrigerated after opening unless you expect to consume them within a day or two.

Full-Bodied Red Wine

Full-bodied red wines have higher acidity and tannin levels, which help to preserve the wine by slowing the ageing process. As a result, full-bodied red wine might last for a week or more. Some full-bodied reds will actually improve after the first day. Storing opened bottles of red wine in the refrigerator will help them last longer.


Sparkling Wine

Sparkling wine should be consumed within two to three days of opening. The wine may still be drinkable after three days, but it will have lost its carbonation. Sparkling wine tastes best within the first 24 hours. This is because it begins to lose carbonation as soon as it is opened. It's a good idea to keep the bottle upright in the fridge with a proper champagne stopper. If at all possible, avoid storing the bottle on its side. If you store the bottle on its side, the carbonation will deplete faster.

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Fortified and Dessert Wine

After being opened, fortified wines, such as port and sherry, can last much longer than other wines. They can last several months if properly stored. Some people believe they can last for years. Madeira and Marsala wines will never go bad. This is because they have already been oxidized and cooked.

Because of the high sugar content, dessert wines can also last much longer than other wines. Sugar preserves the wine naturally. The sweeter the dessert wine, the longer it will last after opening. It will last the longest if refrigerated, as with other types of wine.

How to Tell if Wine Has Gone Bad

When a wine has gone bad, the first thing you'll notice is a change in colour. Pour a small amount of wine into a clear glass and examine it. Red wine will begin to turn brownish (unless it is a fortified wine, which is already aged and brownish). Keep in mind that full-bodied, aged reds will have a slight brown hue, which is normal. White wine will change from a light white color to a 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 step is to smell the wine. If the wine has gone bad, you may notice a strange odour that was not there before. Look out for tart, sharp, or even sulfur or acetone-type smells. You may even notice an earthy or barnyard smell (in some varietals like Baco Noir and Marechal 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 most likely notice a sharp or sour flavour that seems out of balance with the other flavours. You may also notice that the fruit flavours have become duller, or that the wine has become flat.


How to Prevent Wine From Going Bad

There are some things you can do to keep your opened wine fresher for longer. First and foremost, make certain that your wine is properly corked. While the dry side of the cork may be easier to get back into 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're attempting to save.

It's also a good idea to keep your wine upright in a cool, dark place, preferably in the refrigerator. Storing a bottle of wine on its side exposes it to more air, causing it to oxidize faster. Storing the bottle upright reduces the amount of air that comes into contact with the wine, keeping it fresher for longer. The cold will also help keep the wine fresher for longer.

Another suggestion is to pour any remaining wine into a smaller wine bottle or another tightly sealed container. Make sure the container you use is completely filled with wine and well sealed. The less air allowed into the container, the less the wine will oxidize. Because the wine is not in contact with oxygen, it will last longer.

If you find yourself frequently storing unfinished bottles of wine, you might want to consider getting a product called the Wine Squirrel. The Wine Squirrel is a decanter that creates an airtight 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 and doesn't leak.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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