Does wine go bad? The short answer is yes, wine can expire. But there’s a bit more to it! Find out below what causes wine to go bad along and how to tell if wine is bad. Does alcohol expire? Can Pinot Noir and other types of red wine go bad? How long do wine bottles last after being opened? We’re here to settle these questions for good. Keep reading to find the answers you’re looking for.

What Causes Wine to Go Bad?

Here are the top three reasons why bottles of wine go bad after opening them:

1. Oxidation

The second you uncork a bottle of wine, oxygen enters and begins to change the wine’s chemical composition. Oxidation often results from not sealing the bottle properly before storing it in the refrigerator or leaving an opened bottle in the fridge past its shelf life. A dry cork can also cause oxidation by allowing oxygen to seep into the bottle.

2. Contamination

Bacteria and other contaminants can enter the wine during the fermentation, bottling, or distribution process and cause it to go bad before it reaches store shelves.

3. Improper Bottling or Storage

Not creating a tight enough seal while bottling wine allows oxidation to occur. Similarly, storing a wine bottle in a hot, humid, or moist environment will cause it to go bad sooner.

Does Unopened Wine Go Bad?

Yes, unopened wine can go bad. Whether it’s due to a dry cork, heat or humidity exposure, contamination, or improper storage, unopened wine bottles are just as susceptible to spoiling. You may be surprised to learn that wine does expire! Check the chart below to learn how long it lasts.

couple looking at unopened bottle of wine

How Long Does Wine Last After Opening?

Now that you know opened wine bottles can go bad, the key question is how long wine lasts after opening. Most wine bottles last for three to five days after being opened, but it varies depending on the wine type and storage.

As a general rule of thumb, light-colored wines—like whites, rosés, and sparkling—go bad faster than dark-colored wines. Sweet wines and those with high tannins—like reds and dessert wines—last longer.

Here’s how long each type of wine lasts after being opened:

Type of Wine How Long It Lasts After Opening
Sparkling 1-2 days
Light white and rosé 4-5 days
Rich white 3-5 days
Red wine 3-6 days
Dessert 3-7 days
Port 1-3 weeks
Sherry 1-8 weeks

How to Tell if Wine Has Gone Bad

While wine doesn’t expire in the way that food does, it can go bad. It most likely won’t make you sick, but drinking it will be less than pleasant.

Here’s how you can tell whether your wine is bad:

  • Dry cork: A dry cork is the first sign of oxidation which, over time, changes the wine’s flavor completely.
  • Discoloration: Bad red wine turns a brownish color, while bad white or sparkling wine turns yellow.
  • Foul smell: Whether it’s reminiscent of vinegar, manure, or rotten eggs, a bad smell coming from an opened wine bottle is the telltale sign of either contamination or oxidation.
  • Strange taste: While excess lactic acid can create a sauerkraut taste, poor fermentation can produce a chemical taste.
  • Bubble formation in a still wine: If still wine starts to form bubbles, that means the fermentation process has reactivated.
  • Lack of bubbles in a sparkling wine: On the flip side, a sparkling wine with no bubbles present means oxidation has caused it to go flat.
  • A wine leak on the cork: If you notice any wine leaking onto or through the cork, the bottle has sustained heat damage.

cork sticking out of wine bottle

3 Tips to Keep Your Wine From Going Bad

Want to know how you can keep your beloved bottles from going bad? Follow these three tips.

1. Store Properly

If you have a decanter, transfer the remaining wine from an opened bottle into it. If you don’t have a decanter, simply recork the bottle and ensure a tight seal. This step cuts off the air supply to prevent oxidation. Store opened bottles in the refrigerator, and store unopened bottles horizontally in a temperature-controlled environment.

2. Maintain a Steady Temperature

Whether you store a bottle in the refrigerator or the basement, ensure the wine’s temperature remains constant. Temperature fluctuations can ruin the wine completely.

3. Drink Opened Bottles Within a Proper Time Frame

After you open a bottle of wine, plan to finish it within one to two days after opening to maintain freshness. Running out of time? Try these tips for using up leftover wine!

Shop Recorking Essentials

Keeping your opened wine bottles from going bad starts with the right storage tools. Lucky for you, The Wine Cellar Group has you covered. Browse our collection of user-friendly, reliable corkers to maximize the shelf life of your favorite bottles.

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