How Long Does Wine Last After Opening?

Learn why that open bottle of Champagne goes bad much more quickly than Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon.

<p>Plateresca / Getty Images</p>

Plateresca / Getty Images

As much as we wish we could preserve the magic of our favorite bottles forever, wine has a shelf life. While some wines get better with age, once you uncork the bottle, the clock starts ticking.

Jonathan Ross, wine director at The Global Ambassador in Phoenix, Arizona and The Twelve Thirty Club in Nashville, Tennessee associates opening a bottle of wine to slicing into an apple. They’re both fragile fruit products, and as such, both the apple flesh and the wine begin to immediately react to oxygen.

In the case of the apple, it begins to brown. With wine, “the flavors begin to make their journey to vinegar while wafting away all the more delicate characteristics of the wine along the way,” says Danya Degen, general manager and sommelier at Méli in Washington, D.C.

Why can an open bottle of bourbon, liqueur, or amaro last for years? Even though wine has alcohol, acidity, and tannins that help to preserve it, the lower alcohol and sugar content in wine (compared to liqueurs and spirits) contributes to wine's shorter shelf life, says Maggie Dahill, general manager and wine director at Theodora in Brooklyn, New York.

So how long do you really have before an open bottle of wine starts to taste off?  While there’s a lot of nuance that determines how long wine will last, here’s a quick guide to what you can expect, as well as how to store wine to keep it fresh for as long as possible and other ways to use an unfinished bottle.

What determines how long an open bottle of wine will last?

Gabriella Borg Costanzi, service and wine director at Le Crocodile and Bar Blondeau in Brooklyn, says that as a general rule, it’s wise to aim to enjoy an open bottle of wine within three days.

The exact shelf life of an open bottle depends on a variety of factors, such as the alcohol level, tannins, and the acidity of the wine, as higher levels of each of these help to preserve an open bottle of wine a bit longer. 

How long does open wine last?

  • One day or less: Most sparkling wines and wines made without added sulfites

  • Two to three days: Low-alcohol white and rosé wines

  • Four to seven days: Oak-aged white wines, as well as white and rosé wines with 13% or more alcohol, off-dry wines, and most red wines

  • Seven days or more: Most dessert wines and fortified wines

That being said, if you’re still enjoying the wine past the timeline mentioned above, and don’t feel obligated to ditch it. “At the end of the day if you're happy drinking it on the third or fourth day, then that’s all that really matters,” says Dahill.

How to store open wine

Just like fruit, open wine lasts longer if you store it in the refrigerator — even red wine. “Keep it sealed, keep it cold, and try to get to it in a few days if you can,” advises Dahill.

If you’re going to reuse the cork from the bottle, Ross recommends popping it back in with the wine-exposed side down for a better seal and to reduce the risk of attracting fruit flies.

Keep in mind that “the more times you open the wine, the more oxygen you are letting in,” says Ross. (Reminder: Oxygen exposure is what we’re trying to avoid here.)

Related: The 7 Best Wine Stoppers, According to a Beverage Director

“You can also consider finding wines in alternative formats like half bottles, canned wine, or boxed wine,” says Dahill. “There are lots of producers considering the environmental impact of shipping glass bottles who are putting really amazing wine into cans and boxes. Cans are a smaller format, and boxed wine generally has a longer shelf life because very little air gets into the bag when you pour from it.”

How to cook with leftover wine

If you’re able to sip your wine within the expiration windows listed above, it should taste delightful as-is. However, if you accidentally left out the wine at room temperature for a day or two, think the wine has been exposed to too much oxygen, or simply didn’t love the taste, try these leftover wine ideas:

How to know if open wine has gone bad

“The best way to check if a wine is still drinkable is to pour it into a glass, and give it a whiff,” says Degen.

Wine should smell like fruit you’d like to eat, says Ross. If that fruit starts to smell like it’s bruised, brown, oxidized, or is reminiscent of vinegar in terms of the flavor or aroma, it’s time to go ahead and make that vinegar status official. Wine that’s past its prime tends to lose its flavor intensity, so it might land as “thin and empty,” says Costanzi.

Any wet cardboard, dog, or mothball notes are also a sign that the wine might not have been “good” to begin with, adds Degen, so pour those out. If you’re feeling particularly helpful, let the vendor where you bought the wine know so they can look into the product before they offer it to others.

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