How Long Does Red Wine Last? Does It Go Bad? - Wine Turtle
This post was updated on: November 1, 2018

How Long Does Red Wine Last? Does It Go Bad?

how long does red wine last

So you’ve bought a nice bottle of red wine and you’re wondering how long it lasts (opened or unopened) or whether it goes bad? Or perhaps you were given one as a present that you have had for over a year by now and don’t know whether it is still safe to drink.

Unfortunately there isn’t a straight answer to how long red wine lasts; it depends largely on whether the bottle was opened or unopened or the type of wine. Whether you're drinking a cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, malbec, shiraz, zinfandel, tempranillo or a merlot the below information will apply to you.

Having said that, the numbers below are a good general rule of thumb to follow when it comes to red wines that are opened and unopened.

2 days Opened Wine
Multiple Years Unopened Wine

How long does red wine last?

Once you open your wine red wine you generally want to finish it the same day, or latest within 2-3 days from when you opened the bottle. The reason isn’t so much because the wine is unsafe to drink after, but just that it will start to taste very “vinegary” (is that even a word?) after and in most cases will be very unpleasant on the palate.

If you’re interested as to why this happens, keep in reading as I’ll go into a little more detail on this later in the article. I’ll also give you a suggestion as to how you can extend the life of your wine after you’ve opened it to be able to enjoy it a little bit longer.

What happens when wine goes bad?

Without getting too technical, the fact that your wine develops a very sour and vinegary taste after it has been opened and not consumed within a number of days is because of the process called oxidation.

Once you wine comes into contact with air molecules it comes oxidized. Not only will this result in the loss of flavor and for it to develop a very sour and bitter taste, it can also have an impact on its appearance. Wines that are oxidized will generally lose their brightness by turning from a bright red into a brick or brown colored wines.

There are also a number of other reasons why your wine may have gone bad, and you can check out our article where we discuss the most frequent reasons as to why it has gone bad, and the smells that are associated with it.

How can I extend the life of my wine after it has been opened?

Although nothing will be able to extend the life of your wine indefinitely, there’s one tool that can help you keep an opened bottle for at least a week or more. This tool is called a wine preserving tool, such as the VacuVin Winesaver.

This tool is essentially a little pump with a bottle stopper that allows you to suck the air out of the bottle after you put the bottle stopper on and essentially creating a vacuum. It’s this air that results in the oxidation of the wine. In other words, the less air that remains in your bottle after you close it, the less quickly your wine will oxidize. It’s a handy little tool that every wine lover (new or old) should have in their arsenal.

Unless you’re the type that finishes a bottle per sitting (which I admit I do on occasion), this tool will let you preserve your wine for at least a week rather than having to chuck it out the next day or two. It’s also pretty affordable and should pay for itself pretty quickly as you won’t be wasting as much wine. No one likes to waste wine!

How long does red wine last unopened?

On the contrary, when your red wine is unopened it will last for years and years and will sometimes even get better with time. This is essentially called ageing wine and is a practice usually done for very expensive bottles of wine. As long as the wine is stored properly during this process, some connoisseurs feel that this process allows the wine to develop its full flavor and aroma.

Having said that, generally speaking I wouldn’t worry too much about red wine lasting when the bottle is unopened. It should be fine for years and years to come although the profile might change slightly – it is more the opened wine that you should worry about.

Does wine go bad?

There are a number of ways to tell if your wine has gone bad either by looking at it, smelling it, and/or tasting it (if you dare!).

Visual Clues

  • The wine has lost its brightness and now has a more brownish color. Most likely this either means that the wine has somehow been oxidized or tainted somehow. I would stay clear of wine that has turned this color, but if you must, you can have a small sip just to confirm.
  • The cork is pushed out slightly from the bottle. This is a sign that the wine has overheated which is also called “maderized”. This generally happens during cargo, but could also happen at home when the wine is exposed to too much heat.

Clues Through Smell

  • Smells like vinegar. As mentioned above, this is most likely the result of oxidation and the wine will be sour to the point where it is no longer pleasant to drink. I would recommend disposing of the wine once it has reached this point.
  • Smells corked or like wet cardboard and musty. This is most likely the result of your wine being “corked” and is the result of wood fungi coming into contact with the wine.
  • If it smells like Sherry, and isn’t actually Sherry means that it’s probably gone bad

Clues Through Taste

  • Tastes like vinegar. If you smelled the vinegar, yet still decided to give it a try, and taste vinegar too, the wine is definitely oxidized. Throw it out!.
  • Tastes fizzy. If, when you take a sip, it feels like you’re drinking a can of soda, it means that the wine has gone off. This means that the wine has gone through a second fermentation and is generally grounds for dumping the bottle down the drain
  • Tastes flat. If there’s no flavor to the wine and it tastes “lifeless” and lacks the taste of fruit it is most likely either bad, or just a very bad bottle of wine

That's it....

So to wrap it up, it all up it’s best to consume your red wine within a number of days if you have opened the bottle while you can probably keep it for years if you leave it unopened (as long as its stored in the proper conditions of course).

Have you had any experiences with wine that has gone bad? I’d love to hear from you and your story, so make sure you drop a comment below.

About the Author

Although not having any formal training in wine, Tim has developed an irrefutable love wine and interest in anything related to it ever since he was a little kid. Coming from a family of wine lovers, it was from a young age that he got exposed to wine and the culture that goes with it and has been addicted ever since. Having traveled to dozens of wine regions across the world including those in France, Italy, California, Australia, and South Africa and tasted a large selection of their wines, it is with great joy that he hopes to share those experiences here and take you along on the journey.

Leave a Reply 7 comments