It’s at the tail end of a lovely dinner, and you find yourself with half a bottle left of that Shiraz you popped open for this occasion. You could finish it, or you could store it. But how long does red wine last once opened?
It’s an age-old question that has left many people scratching their heads, wondering if they need to drink it as soon as possible or if they can at least wait a few days before their bottle of red wine is spoiled.
The answer will vary slightly depending on the type of red wine, the climate you’re in, and the way an open bottle is stored. To get to the bottom of this question once and for all, we’ll break down what happens to an opened bottle of wine and how you can slow the process to get the most out of whatever you’re drinking.
How long does red wine last once opened?
Because red wine is made in so many ways and comes in so many variations, there is no ‘one shoe fits all’ answer when asking how long does red wine last after opening.
But, if we were to generalise, red wine typically lasts from 3 to 6 days under the right conditions.
- Light red wines — Open lighter reds tend to last the shortest amount of time before ‘spoiling’. Light reds such as Pinot Noirs typically last around 2 to 3 days under the right conditions.
- Medium red wines — Open medium-bodied reds, such as Shiraz and Merlot, tend to last a little longer, between 3 to 5 days.
- Full-bodied red wines — Open, full-bodied red wines usually last the longest, staying fresh between 4 to 6 days. These include Cabernet Sauvignon and some Shiraz.
The more full-bodied red wine is, the higher its alcohol and tannin content, which helps it to stay fresh longer. Full-bodied reds tend to have 13.5% alcohol content or more.
Are there ways to make red wine last longer once opened?
There are general guides to how long red wine lasts after opening, but is there anything you can do to buy yourself more time? The answer depends on a few factors.
- Exposure to oxygen in the air — The number one killer of red wine’s subtle flavour profile and fruity notes is oxygen. A little bit of aeration is a good thing with wine, allowing the flavours to open up and develop, but extended exposure to the air will start to turn the wine acidic, eventually spoiling it with vinegary overtones. Re-sealing a wine bottle as soon as possible limits the amount of air it’s exposed to and works better than storing it in a decanter.
- Exposure to light — As well as air, sunlight can penetrate clear and green bottles, causing the release of sulphur which overwhelms wine’s natural and delicate taste. Sun also increases the temperature of the wine, speeding up the natural degrading process that starts after uncorking. Storing an open bottle in a cool dark place like a wine fridge is certainly ideal.
- The way you re-seal and store a bottle — Fitting a cork back in a bottle will limit airflow a little but will no longer provide an airtight seal. For a better solution, you can use a wine stopper, wine preservation system, inert wine gas preservation systems or choosing bottles with screw tops. Storing the bottle upright in the door of the fridge rather than lying on its side also helps to limit the surface area which can be exposed to the air. Before opening your wine, we recommend storing them on some high-quality wine racks.
- The type of red wine varietal — Finally, consider the type of red wine you have when judging how long it will last. The more acidic and tannic a red wine is, the longer it will last (tannins protect wine from oxidisation for longer, so tannic wines generally have a slower ageing process). Syrah, Cab Savs and Sangioveses will last longer due to their tannin count — up to 5 days if stored properly — while lower tannin Pinot Noirs will only last about 2 days. Shiraz and Merlot varieties fall somewhere in the middle.
How to know if your opened red wine has gone bad?
After wine has been spoiled, it will have a sour, abrasive smell, not dissimilar to nail polish, bruised fruit or vinegar. Remember, wine comes from fruit, so it’s no wonder that it may smell like a slice of fruit that has been left out for too long. It will also seem dull and lack its trademark colours. And when you taste it, you’ll know that it’s gone bad, while also tasting overly sweet.
Wine Stash can help you store your red wine under the perfect conditions
Cellaring and ageing red wine properly is the first step to extending its shelf life and getting the most out of your investment. From bespoke solutions to our classic collection of cabinets and wine cubes, Wine Stash helps you store your wine reliably while keeping your top-tier collection in premium conditions.
At Wine Stash, we love wine! So much so that we made it our job to help other wine lovers store their wine under the best conditions. From storing your wine on our premium wine racks, or in our state of the art wine cabinets/wine refrigerators, we provide a fantastic range of wine storage solutions.
Check out our online store today to begin your wine collection journey.