How long will opened and unopened wine last? One of the best things to come home to is that opened bottle of wine we forget we had waiting for us. We pour it in a big glass, swirl it around and breathe in the sweet aroma.
But when we take that first sip, sometimes it’s not that crisp and bubbly flavor that hit our tongues a couple of days ago. The taste is sour or vinegary, our lips twist and our eyes squint. The wine is spoiled – how on Earth could we let this delightful drink that’s always there for us, down?
It’s okay, wine accepts us for who we are (it does see us sing at the top of our lungs). But, the worst thing is watching our wine pour down the drain (sometimes while crying) – even if it was only a $9 Barefoot bottle. Here are some estimates for how long wine lasts, as well as wine storage advice that explains the Miles Davis photo.
How Long Does Wine Last / Stay Good?
The cheap wine, (under $20) most of us buy at the liquor store can last a couple of years if stored correctly. Virtually none of this “cheap” wine is suitable for “cellaring”, (storing for long period of time) but it still might last as long as your average canned good if stored properly. To figure out if your wine is still good, start with the year on the label. Generally better wine can last longer, so that ’06 Yellow Tail chardonnay isn’t fit for drinking anymore!
Here’s some helpful info on how long wine stays fresh / drinkable:
How Long Does RED Wine Last?
- Unopened: 2-3 years
- Opened lasts: 1-2 weeks (in refrigerator)
Red wine varieties include: Cabernet Sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir, syrah, malbec, etc. Good for your heart and on the table of a candlelight dinner, all of the luscious varieties of red wine lasts about 1 to 2 weeks in the refrigerator after opening. Uncorked, red wine lasts about 2 to 3 years. This gives us plenty of time to choose between all of the subtle notes we’re in the mood for – from violets, blueberry, cherries and even coffee. Red wine is best enjoyed when it’s room temperature and after some time of breathing in some air to bring out the flavors. Sit it out as a decoration and try not to rush it’s beauty!
How Long Does WHITE Wine Last?
- Unopened: 1-2 years
- Once opened, it lasts: 1-3 days (in refrigerator)
White wine varieties include: Chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, moscato, riesling, etc. The elegant and sparkly white wine is a lot more demanding (one of the only kind of demands I’ll be happy to follow). After opening, white wine only lasts about 1 to 3 days because white wine is a lot more sensitive to light and heat. White wine makes me think of a breezy summer day. Light and bubbly — with notes of citrus, melon, apple and much more. Without opening, white wine can last 1 to 2 years.
How Long Does BOX Wine Last?
- Unopened box wine: 6-9 months
- Opened box wine lasts: 6+ weeks
Are you training for the “Tour de Franzia?” Unlike bottled wine, box wine actually has an expiration date. Box wine should still taste fine a couple of months past its expiration date.
How Long Does Fine Wine Last?
Fine Wine can last decades in a wine cellar, but once opened is subject to the same laws of physics as cheap wine.
- Fine Red Wine: Up to 10 years
- Fine Red wine: up to 20+ years
- Fortified wines: Up to 100+ years
*A fortified wine is one to which a distilled spirit, such as brandy, has been added. Varieties of fortified wine include: port wine, sherry, vermouth, madeira wine, and marsala wine
It’s weird to think that a bottle of wine that has been fermenting since the nineties can go bad within days of opening, but all good things must come to an end. The reason wine goes bad is from the same thing that makes red wine taste better: oxidation. As wine is exposed to oxygen (which we can’t cut off completely after opening), it spoils.
*Related: Does Drinking Wine Make You Fat?
Make Wine Last Longer: Keep It COOL, DARK, & HORIZONTAL (Like Miles Davis on His Back!)
I just made that simile up, and it’s such a nice visual to remember! Anyway, in order to know how to care for your wine, you need to know how to start its life off right when you take it home. The proper place to store your bottle of wine is not going to be right by your side, but it’s okay, it will still be there when you wake up (unlike other things).
The wine that’s stacked beautifully by name on the liquor store shelves are meant to be enjoyed soon after purchasing and not stored for longer period of time. Wine cellars are the perfect, proper way to store good wine, so we want to try to replicate them. Cellars are cool, dark places with a temperature between 50-55°F (13°C).
If you have the habit of keeping your wine above the fridge, near the stove or next to the dishwasher — stop it! Every time you use one of those appliances, their heat will heat up your poor bottle of wine.
Find a spot in your house where it’s cool and dark and where you can place your wine horizontally. Storing your wine bottle on its side keeps the cork moist, which will prevent the horror of air sneaking into the bottle and drying out the cork, causing it to crumble into your wine.
We’ve all had the experience of finally popping that cork only to find pieces of it floating in your glass (Although this doesn’t stop us from drinking it – I’ve been there).
*Takeaway: “If storing wine properly is cool, consider me Miles Davis!” The three easy steps to storing wine are keeping it cool, dark and horizontal. You can find some fun wine racks on sites like Etsy, or just create your own!
*Related: Review of Tasting Room Wine Club
How to know if wine is still good: 4 Simple Ways to Detect Bad Wine
There is no such thing as bad wine, I refuse to believe it!
- Smell: When your wine is sour, the aroma will most likely be sour as well. Instead of a fruity aroma, there will be a musty, moldy smell like wet cardboard.
- Sight: We love the palette of color that wines can show, so I’m sure we can tell when something is off. If red wines have a brownish hue, it’s as good as dirt. If white wines are darker than usual, ditch them. Another thing you should be able to notice as you gaze at the stream of wine pouring into your class is cloudiness.
- Taste: Just trust your instincts when you take a sip of wine and it doesn’t make you want to smile immediately.
- Leaky Cork: The cork gets weird when the wine gets weird. If the cork is leaky or poking out of the bottle more than usual, the bottle has overheated.
Hopefully this post has provided some helpful estimates of how long wine stays good for. (In fact, we’re full of good advice, and recently wrote a post about how to ripen avocados faster!) If all of the above is too wordy or confusing, just go by our ancestors’ rule of thumb: “if something tastes disgusting, you probably shouldn’t drink it!”
Also, you can get some great bottles of wine for under $20 at your local liquor store, so no need to go crazy and order expensive wine from Harry & David or wine.com, unless it’s a gift.
Photo of Miles Davis By Antonisse, Marcel / Anefo