Wine Writing Team on January 6, 2020 1 Comment There’s a common misconception that wine gets better with age. While this is mostly true for fine wines, the majority of table wines should be consumed within a few years of their expiration date. It’s fairly easy to tell if an opened bottle of wine has gone bad, but you don’t want to host your next dinner party and realize too late that a good unopened bottle of wine has gone bad. So how do you know for sure? Why does wine go bad? Wine goes bad as a result of chemical reactions taking place. The first reaction happens when bacteria consumes the alcohol in wine and metabolizes it into acetic acid and acetaldehyde, giving it a sharp, vinegar-like smell. The second is when the alcohol oxidizes, causing a nutty, bruised fruit taste taking away the wine’s fresh, fruity flavor. Once opened, most table wines last about 3 to 5 days before they start to spoil. How can you tell if your wine’s gone bad? If you found an unopened bottle of wine in the back of your cupboard, then you’re in luck because it has a much longer shelf-life than opened wine. Even better if it’s been waiting in a mini cooler or wine refrigerator. While wine is designed to last a long time, it does break down eventually. First, check the expiration date. This may also be the “best by” or “drink by” date. While this date is just a suggestion, it’s a good suggestion of when your bottle will taste its best. If there’s no expiration date, check the vintage year on the wine label. This date allows you to estimate the expiration date by adding a year to white wine and two years to red. – White Wine: 1-2 years past the expiration date – Red Wine: 2-3 years past the expiration date – Cooking Wine: 3-5 years past the expiration date – Fine Wine: 10 to 20 years Try to remember, or do a little research if you have to, about how much you spent on the wine. Most wines are meant to be enjoyed not long after being bottled, so in general, if the bottle cost $30 or less, it should be drunk within a year or two of purchase. The best way to know if wine has gone bad is to pay attention to your senses. If you know wine well enough, you can detect if it’s gone bad by noticing a change in color. If a normally purple wine looks brownish or a lighter white wine looks golden or opaque, then those are indications that something isn’t right. If your wine has a tart, sharp, vinegary or nail polish remover-like smell, it’s probably bad. If it smells at all unpleasant, it’s not worth drinking. However, if you think the wine smells okay and you’re willing to give it a sip, go for it. Wine that has gone bad generally can’t hurt you, but your taste buds might not appreciate it. If you taste sour or sharp flavors or that vinegary taste, then toss it down the drain. Bottom line is that wine will last for a shorter period of time if it’s not stored properly. Where to properly store wine Not everyone has access to a wine cellar, or even extra space for a large wine cooler. But that doesn’t mean you can’t properly store your wine. There are many mini wine coolers to consider as well as undercounter beverage coolers to maximize your space. Either option will allow you to follow the best practices for wine storage: – Store wine in a dark place. UV rays from direct sunlight can damage wine’s flavors and aromas. – Check humidity levels. Lower humidity levels cause corks to dry out and leave the wine vulnerable to the effects of oxygen. Generally, humidity levels should be between 55 and 70 percent. – Keep the wine cool. Temperature is probably the most important factor when it comes to storing wine. Generally, the ideal temperature for both long-term and short-term wine storage is around 53 to 57 degrees Fahrenheit. The best way to make sure that your wine is stored in a consistently cool, dark and moist environment is by investing in a wine refrigerator/wine cooler. From mini wine coolers with a 6-25 bottle capacity to large units designed to be built-in or freestanding, you can find a comprehensive selection of wine refrigeration, wine preservation, and wine storage solutions to meet your unique needs and lifestyle.