Can this ancient drink actually go bad?
If you are a wine lover, you’ve probably wondered at least once in your life can wine actually expire.
Every once in a while, many of us like to drink a glass of wine to relax in the evening hours. But sometimes, you would find an opened bottle of wine stored in your fridge, wondering if it’s still safe to drink.
Or perhaps you have that one wine for “special” occasions. Now, after a few years, you are looking at it. Wondering if you should throw it away or open it for that family celebration lunch on Sunday.
Well, we have good news and bad news for you!
Does Wine Go Bad?
If you thought that wine lasts indefinitely – we have to disappoint you.
The truth is that bottled wine can last years if stored properly, but if you open it, its days are numbered. But why does an opened bottle of wine ‘spoil’ so quickly though?
Wine can go bad for a lot of reasons, and the major factor in the process is oxygen. When you open your wine, the oxygen from the air dissolves into the wine and this process is called oxidation. But, if it’s in contact with oxygen for an extended period of time, it can go bad as a result of the growth of bacteria.
The reason this happens is because the bacteria that turn wine into vinegar feed on oxygen. You will recognize it by the smell of vinegar, nail polish remover, and acetone. It takes hours or even days for ill effects of oxidation to show themselves. The solution to this is to expose the wine to less oxygen and starve the bacteria that cause spoilage.
If you don’t feel like pouring your bad wine down the drain, there are a few ways you can still use it! For example, you can make a marinade for meat, dye some old cloth, make vinegar or jelly, or even use it as a fly trap!
Wine is typically made from fermented grapes. The winemaking process involves a lot of science. Even the smallest mistake can have a major impact on the final product! The process of winemaking is divided into 5 steps and each step is important. It’s basically a chemical reaction of yeast consuming the sugar in the grapes, converting it to ethanol, carbon dioxide and heat.
What distinguishes wine from other liquors is that the quality of wine can improve over time! Anyways, there are 5 basic types of wine – white, red, rose, dessert or sweet wine, and sparkling wine.
How Long Does Wine Last?
We have good news for you – if stored properly, unopened wine can last thousands of years! In fact, the oldest preserved wine is 1700 years old. You can find it on display in the Historical Museum of the Palatinate in Germany.
But, when it comes to opened wine, it takes approximately 3-5 days before it starts to go bad.
It’s different for every type:
- Sparkling wine, once opened can last 1-3 days;
- Light white and rose 4-5 days;
- Rich white and red wine 3-6 days;
- Dessert wine 3-7;
- Port wine and sherry can last up to a few weeks!
Even so, the shelf life of wine depends on many factors. Thus, different types of wines with different prices can have different lifetimes.
For example, bottled red wine always lasts longer than bottled white wine. It even tends to taste better with age. This is because red wines contain tannins that help in preventing oxidation. But do not worry, white wines are also going to taste good over a period of time.
The lifespan of wine depends on various factors:
- How you store it
- Acidity level
- Sugar content
- Alcohol content
- Tannin content
- Oxygen content
So, the short answer is – if stored properly, the shelf life of wine can be over decades of time!
How To Properly Store Wine?
A wine cellar has the perfect conditions for wine storage. Dark and cool place, kept at a constant temperature 50-55 °F (13°C), and slightly angled shelves.
Since most of us don’t have those conditions, just remember to store it in a cold and dark place.
You can put your wine in the refrigerator once you open it, to keep it fresh for a longer period of time. One fact that most people don’t know is that you should always keep your wine on its side until opened. That keeps the cork moist, which preserves the seal and prevents air from seeping into the bottle. Also, your cork won’t be dry and won’t crumble upon opening.
You should also consider keeping the wine bottles away from light and vibration.
Furthermore, rule out your kitchen, boiler or laundry room as possible storing locations. Find some stable, cold and dark space, not too damp or dry, or consider buying a wine cooler.
Maybe it sounds like a lot, but it’s worth it!
Signs Of Bad Wine
As mentioned above, there are a lot of reasons a wine can go bad. Storage problems, microbial contamination, and poor bottling can shorten your wine’s life.
There are a lot of signs for spoiled wine and trust us, you’ll know.
- First of all, take a good look at your wine. If it looks dull and brownish, has the appearance of fizz and bubbles, it is either oxidized or has started to re-ferment. From a chemistry point of view, that happens when a wine is not sterilized before bottling and yeasts begin eating what’s left of sugar.
- The second thing you should try is to smell it. If it smells like rotten eggs, onions, cabbage, vinegar, or even barnyard and moldy cardboard it has definitely gone bad. Different bacteria and not enough oxygen can cause this particular type of smell.
- If you don’t smell anything, but you are still not quite so sure, you can taste it. If it tastes like chemicals, we are sorry, but nothing can help that wine taste better!
Also, you should always check your cork. If leakage is visible on the cork, or you notice the cork pushing up past the bottle rim, it is a sign of heat damage. In this case, the wine taste is duller. Having said that, there should always be a quarter-inch between the wine in the bottle and the cork.
The most common reason wine goes bad is that it was not drunk fast enough once it was opened. That happens because the moment the cork is pulled out, the oxygen rushes in and sulfur dioxide dissolves into the air. Fruity aromas disappear, flavors turn dull and bitter, and the color changes.
So, once you open your wine bottle, the clock is ticking!
Fun Facts About Wine
Did you know that bumping glasses with a “cheers” greeting actually came from old Rome? They used this method to make sure no one is trying to poison the other. That is because bumping glasses causes a drink spill from one glass to the other.
Believe it or not, both red and white grapes produce clear juice! It is actually the grape’s skin that determines the color. Leaving the grape’s skin in the juice during the fermentation results in red wine.
One more interesting thing is that women are more likely to suffer from hangovers than men! This is because women have fewer enzymes in the stomach lining, which are needed to successfully break down the alcohol.
Does Wine Go Bad – Final Word
Sadly, the answer to our question for all wine lovers – wine can go bad.
Once you open it, you should try and drink it in a couple of days, or it will go bad. Even unopened wine can go bad, if not stored properly.
You should try your best and store your wine in a cool and dark place, and the environment should not be too hot or too cold. Additionally, always store it horizontally and not upright like liquor should be. There are a few ways you can extend the life of an open bottle of wine. For example, buying a wine cooler or even wine stoppers that will extend your wine’s life for a few extra days.
At the end of the day, who are we kidding? A bottle of wine normally goes in a blink of an eye!
In case you didn’t know, wine has a lot of health benefits! It helps with cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, diabetes, and even certain types of cancer. So, next time you sit down to watch your favorite TV show, pour a glass of wine and enjoy it!