Wine is one of the most interesting, varied and delicious drinks in the world. The alcoholic beverage made from the fermented juice of grapes is consumed at an approximate rate of 246 million hectolitres a year. It is commonly known that wine gets better with age, and in the right conditions, and dependent on the variety, this can certainly be the case. However, not every wine will benefit from ageing. Over time, aromas, flavours and appearances of wine will change. Whether the wine will benefit from these changes will depend on several factors including the kind of wine it is, its brand, and how that wine is being stored.
When wines are young, we can taste their primary flavours, such as the plum in Merlot, or the citrus in Riesling. We may also be able to taste their secondary notes such as the cedar and vanilla flavours from oak. As wine ages, the primary flavours move further into the background and the other notes become a lot more prominent. These notes are called ‘tertiary notes’, like honey, hay, mushroom and earth that would at an earlier stage, remain hidden behind the bold, primary notes. Texturally, wine is also susceptible to change. Whilst red wines tend to become smoother, white wines can sometimes become viscous. This is due to phenolic compounds such as tannins, falling out of suspension as sediment.
When wine is stored improperly after it is opened, it is prone to spoiling in several ways. The alcohol in the wine is susceptible to oxidization when exposed to air, which can cause a dull, bruised fruit-like taste. Additionally, when acetic acid bacteria consume wine, it can metabolize it into acetaldehyde and acetic acid, which will result in a very sour, vinegar-like smelling wine.
Now you know the reasons for wine going bad, we thought we would tell you a little bit about the best ways to store wine to extend its shelf life, how to tell when a wine has spoiled, and the typical expiration dates of both unopened and opened wines.
Expiration dates of correctly stored opened wine
- Red wine lasts for 1-2 weeks once opened
- White wine lasts for 1-3 days once opened
- Wine juice boxes last for 6-12 months once opened
- Cooking wine lasts for 1-2 months once opened
- Sparkling wine lasts for 1-2 days once opened
- Dessert wine lasts for 3-7 days once opened
- Port lasts 1-3 weeks once opened
Expiration dates of correctly stored unopened wine
- Red wine lasts for 2-3 years past the printed expiration date
- White wine lasts for 1-2 years past the printed expiration date
- Wine juice boxes last for 1 year past the printed expiration date
- Cooking wine lasts for 3-5 years past the expiration date
- Fine wine lasts for 10-20 years (if properly stored in a wine cellar
What is the best way to store wine to extend its shelf life?
With oxygen being the main enemy of fine wine, it is extremely important to minimize exposure to the air once the bottle has been opened. You can use corks, or wine stoppers to keep the bottle closed as tightly as possible and they should be used as soon as you have finished pouring your glasses. You can also funnel the remaining wine into a smaller bottle which will reduce the amount of air that the wine comes into contact with. The less room for the wine to move around in, the better. In terms of sparkling wines such as Champagne, the bottle should be immediately sealed as soon as the wine has been poured. This is because the bubbles with vanish rapidly if the bottle is left uncovered.
The ideal temperature in which wine should be stored is approximately between 8-10 degrees Celsius for white wine and between 16-18 degrees Celsius for red wine. The purpose of wine coolers is to ensure that these temperatures are achieved and maintained, whilst protecting the wine against UV rays, humidity and vibrations.
You should ensure that your wine is placed horizontally as this will keep the cork moist. This will ensure that the seal is preserved and there is no chance of any air entering the bottle. Once opened, white wines should be kept in the fridge, whilst open red wines should be stored in a stable, dark place.
How can you tell when a wine has spoiled or gone bad?
There are several signs that can indicate that your wine has spoiled or gone bad. One of these signs is that the smell is slightly off. If the aroma of the wine is slightly vinegary or musty, then it is very likely that the wine has had its day. Another sign that the wine has gone bad is that it tastes extremely sweet. If the taste of the wine is resembling a dessert wine or port, then it is likely that it has been exposed to too much heat and it is hence, no longer drinkable. Another signifier is that the cork is split or slightly pushed out from the bottle. This indicates that the wine has been exposed to air or heat and has therefore oxidized.
You can also tell when a wine has spoiled if you can detect a chemical undertone in its flavour or if it has become fizzy when it is not a sparkling wine. These are both indications that the wine has undergone a second fermentation within the bottle, and therefore, should not be consumed.
What are some wines that especially benefit from ageing?
There are several wines that have good ageing potential. Some of these include Furmint, oak-aged Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion, Riesling, Chenin Blanc and a good Chardonnay. Many of these wines are not only known for ageing well, but they often will need a bit of ageing for them to fully develop their flavours.
The majority of rosé wine is designed to be drunk as young as possible. This is because rosé is made with minimal tannins, acidity and concentration, meaning there is not much to evolve and develop. If rosés are left for too long, the fruity flavours will fade and the taste will become taste almost innocuous. With this being said, some of the top rosé wine’s such as Bandol are considered to have an ageing potential of around 3-5 years.
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