We've all been there. You left that gorgeous bottle of rosé wine uncorked in your cupboard for two weeks, and now it's got a bit of a sour undertone when you chug it straight from the bottle like the fearless BAMF that you are. Okay, maybe that's just me. But seriously, does wine go bad? Learn the facts before you start drinking anything that's lying around your house.
If you’re looking for a simple “yes or no” answer, then yes, wine does go bad. But it gets more complicated than that. You’re likely well-acquainted with the fact that wines can be aged for years, as any snobby TV character sniffing and swirling red wine has obnoxiously taught you.
"Why yes this is a classic 1968. I'm surprised you noticed, Debbie."
So if wine is aged for years, that must mean it doesn’t go bad, right? I wish! When wine is aged, it’s done so in sealed, corked bottles without any exposure to air. But once oxygen hits the wine, it stops aging and starts to spoil. This can happen if the cork develops holes or the seal breaks, ruining your wine before you ever get to drink it. Now that’s a tragedy.
In general, unopened wines are good for about a year after their “sell-by” date. After that, their seal has a higher risk of breaking. Storing your wines in a cool, dark place on their sides will keep the cork moistened and reduce the likelihood of this.
Higher quality wines, aka more expensive wines, will store longer and retain their flavor more than lower quality wines, but it’s still a gamble after one to two years. Seems like that $8 bottle of wine you got from the grocery store came with a hidden price. Better drink it while you still can.
On to the more pressing questions: how long after uncorking is wine good? Well, it depends on the quality and type of wine, and if you preserve it the right way. Properly re-corking or sealing the bottle with plastic wrap and a rubber band will keep wine longer, as will storing it correctly.In general, sparkling wines will lose their “sparkle” and go flat very quickly, sometimes even within two days. Keep them in the fridge and very tightly sealed. Red wines will keep for three to five days when sealed and stored in a cool, dark spot. White wines stay good for three to seven days when you keep them sealed up in the fridge. And finally, the miracle of college winos: boxed wines can last up to a whopping 28 days in the fridge. They really are the savior of every college student with a big need for alcohol and a small budget. Thanks, boxed wine!
So how does one tell if their wine has gone bad? Bad wine is generally discolored, turning more and more brown the longer it’s exposed to oxygen. It will also have an off smell, which has been described as smelling like wet dog, wet cardboard, and nail polish remover. Pleasant, right? If you notice any of these signs, it’s a sign your wine is no longer chuggable.
Still not sure if your wine is bad? Just take a sip. A taste test will quickly tell you whether your wine is drinkable or not. If you aren’t sure, see if you can swallow it down. The bacteria that makes wine go bad is the same bacteria used to ferment sauerkraut, pickles, and yogurt, so it won’t make you sick.
The general rule of thumb with wine is that if it goes down easy, then you just put your feet up and enjoy that glass. On the other hand, if you immediately have to spit it out? Pour that bottle down the drain and go get yourself a new one. With all the craziness of college life, you deserve to treat yourself to good wine.
If you want to get your money's worth out of wine that's gone bad, read up on 9 Thrifty Uses for Spoiled Wine. All this wine talk make you thirsty? Check out this recipe for Mulled Wine or how to make a Sangria Wine Slushie.