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How Long Does Wine Keep After Opening?

Published April 17, 2012        by Sarah

Image by stevendamron on FlickrMany people give a bottle wine in a wine gift basket that has been aged. There are bottles of wine sold at auction that are hundreds of years old; they sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and age just improves upon this expensive perfection.  But wine doesn’t age after it is opened – it spoils.  The taste of wine begins to change as soon as it is exposed to air, and if you leave a bottle unfinished and put it in the refrigerator, you may find a very different wine waiting for you in your next glass.  How long does wine keep after you open it?

The best way to keep your wine from spoiling is to drink it all upon opening!  If you are more of a glass-a-night type of drinker (good for you!), then you are bound to have “leftovers.”  Let’s say you pull out the cork. This starts the time clock.  As soon as air is introduced, it will create changes in the wine, such as oxidation.  Even if you put the cork back in, it doesn’t reverse this process.

So what do you do, and how long do you have?

That depends on the type of wine you have and other esoteric factors, but in general, you can expect that three days will be the useful life of that opened bottle of wine. When you open the bottle, the air begins to soften the flavor of the wine, and it loses its subtlety and aroma.  Eventually, it will become very vinegary.  You have probably tasted wine that was more like vinegar, and chances are that it had been sitting in the refrigerator too long.

If a bottle of wine has gone “bad,” you will be able to detect the vinegar smell, and a sommelier or connoisseur can usually detect a change in the color.  It will be duller, and white wines may appear more yellow or brown in tone.

If you cannot finish a bottle, put the cork back in and refrigerate it for up to three days.  Make sure the cork is in tightly, and store the bottle on its side in a darker part of your fridge.  You can also try a wine bottle vacuum pumper.  This creates a vacuum that slows the rate of oxidation; it doesn’t stop it, but you can prolong your leftover wine’s life.  For white wines, simply take them out of the refrigerator and serve.  For reds, take out and let them get up to room temperature before you drink.

Image by slgckgc on FlickrYou also may want to consider changing the way you drink wine.  No, this doesn’t mean drink more!  But instead of a bottle, you might try a boxed wine.  These may have been a wine faux pas a few years ago, but wine packaging is evolving quickly, and this design has a stopper on the spigot that allows you to pour your wine without letting air in.  There are also single serve wine pouches that allow you to enjoy your glass (or pouch) of wine each night without worrying about leftovers.  OneGlass is one such manufacturer, and each pouch has 100ml of wine.  These are ideal for picnics as well because you don’t have to worry about breakage and spilling.

Remember the three-day rule for your upcoming holiday wine gift, and you should never have to drink a glass of vinegar again!

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