Expired Wine: Has Your Bottle Gone Bad? 

Published May 18, 2022
woman checking for expired wine in kitchen cabinet

Do you eye that forgotten bottle of wine tucked away on your pantry floor every time you open the cupboard? Wondering if it's still good? While it may seem like wine is supposed to age, unless you are buying really high-quality bottles, most wines are actually intended to be enjoyed within a year or two of their release date. So, if you are unsure if you have expired wine or not, consider the following to come to a conclusion.

How Long Does Wine Last Unopened?

A wine's shelf life is really subjective to each bottle and how it was made. However, the majority of wine made is intended for relatively quick consumption. Most bottles are in their prime within six months to two years of being released. But there is more to it than just marking your calendar. A wine's storage environment has a huge impact on the wine and affects how well it retains its quality. Temperature, fluctuations in temperature, light, vibration, and the angle of bottle all influence the wine directly. When wine is stored in the proper storage conditions, it should keep its vibrancy for a couple of years.

How Long Does Wine Last Once Opened?

half full wine bottle on counter in kitchen

That lingering third of a bottle of chardonnay has been on the fridge door for...three, maybe four days now. Is it still good? Again, its a bit subjective to each individual wine and how many preservatives it may or may not contain. It also depends on the environment it has been in since being opened. The more exposure to oxygen a wine has, the worse off it is. This means that if a bottle is sitting on the table, uncorked, for numerous hours, or if a bottle only has a small amount of wine remaining it, it will oxidize quicker.

Often people will return the remainder of a white or rosé wine to the fridge but leave the half full bottle of red on the counter, thinking only about the serving temperature for the following day. But ALL wines should be kept in the refrigerator once opened as the cooler temps slow down the process of oxidation. If stored correctly, an opened bottle of wine will still be good three to four days later.

How to Know if a Wine Has Gone Bad

While an expired wine isn't going to harm you, it's going to be unpleasant to drink and is better off sent down the drain. A few different senses are required to assess if a bottle has gone bad. First, when you pour a glass, you will see that the color is rather dull and leans a shade of brown, lacking bright saturation. This browning indicates oxidation over time. Second, you'll notice aromas of browned apples, nuttiness, or raisins. These aromas come from oxidation as well.

You may also smell damp cardboard, moldy carpet, or wet dog; this indicates cork taint, or TCA, which occurs when the cork is infected with Trichloroanisole bacteria. The bacteria transfers the undesirable aromas and flavors to the wine. If any of the above signs are very obvious, you're likely not even going to want to give it a taste to confirm. In this scenario, the was has gone bad and should be discarded.

Assessing Expired Wine

If you are unsure whether a wine is expired or not, the best way to find out is by using your senses. Pour a few ounces into a clear glass, look, smell, and potentially taste. If the overall character is stale, dull, or unpleasant, its likely gone bad.

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Expired Wine: Has Your Bottle Gone Bad?