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How long can red wine keep?

Last updated on February 2, 2021

So you have a nice bottle red wine bought wondering how long it will last (open or unopened) or if it will go bad?

Or maybe you've been given one that you've had in your basement for over a year and don't know if it's still safe to drink.

Unfortunately there is no direct answer to how long red wine can be kept; it largely depends on whether the bottle was opened or unopened, or on the type of wine and how it was stored.

Table of Contents

Shelf life of red wine

Whether you drink a Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Malbec, Shiraz, Zinfandel, Tempranillo or a Merlot, the following information on the shelf life of unopened and opened red wine applies to you.

The numbers below are a good general rule of thumb to follow for opened and unopened red wines.

  • Open red wine: 2 days
  • Unopened red wine: Several years

How long can red wine keep?

Usually, once you've opened your red wine, you should Drink it on the same day or at the latest within 2-3 days after opening the bottle.

The reason is not so much that the wine is unsafe to drink afterwards, but simply that it begins to taste a lot like "vinegar" and in most cases will be very unpleasant on the palate.

If you're interested in why this happens, keep reading, I'll get into a little more detail later in the article. I will also give you a suggestion on how to extend the life of your wine after opening so that you can enjoy it a little longer.

What happens when red wine goes bad?

Without getting too technical: The fact that your red wine develops a very acidic-vinegar taste after opening, if not consumed within a few days, is due to the process of so-called oxidation traced back.

As soon as your wine comes into contact with air molecules, it will oxidize. This not only leads to a loss of flavor and a great deal of flavor sour and bitter taste but can also affect its appearance.

Wines that oxidize generally lose their brightness by changing from a bright red to a brick red or brown colored wine.

There are a number of other reasons why your red wine may have gone bad as well, and you can read our article where we discuss the most common reasons for wine spoilage and the smells associated with it: How to recognize bad wine: How to tell if Wine has gone bad?

How can you extend the shelf life of red wine after opening?

While nothing can do the life of your wine indefinitely, there is a tool that can help you find one keep the opened bottle for at least a week or more. This tool is known as a wine stopper, such as the EZBASICS Wine Saver.

This device is essentially a small pump with a bottle cap that allows you to use the To suck air from the bottleafter you put the bottle cap on, and essentially creating a vacuum.

It is this air that causes the wine to oxidize. In other words, the less air that remains in the 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 of person who drinks a whole bottle of wine in one evening (which I admit, I do occasionally), this tool lets you keep your wine for at least a week rather than the next day or the day after that, or the next two days to have to drink.

This little resource is also pretty affordable and should pay for itself pretty quickly since you won't be wasting as much wine. Nobody likes to waste wine!

How long can red wine be kept unopened?

Conversely, if your Red wine is unopened, it can last for years and sometimes even get better over time. This is essentially known as aging wine and is a practice normally used on very expensive wine bottles.

As long as the wine during this process correctly stored some connoisseurs have the impression that this process allows the wine to develop its full taste and aroma.

Other than that, I wouldn't worry too much about that in general Shelf life of red wine if the bottle is unopened. It should be fine for years to come, even if the profile could change slightly - it's more of the opened red wine that should be worried about.

Can red wine go bad and spoil?

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

Visual cues

  • The red wine has lost its brightness and is now more brown in color. Most likely this means either that the wine has been oxidized in some way or that it has been contaminated in some way. I would stay away from wine that has turned this color, but if you have to, you can have a small sip to confirm.
  • The cork is easily pushed out of the bottle. This is a sign that the wine is overheated, which is also known as “maderized”. This generally happens during transport, but it can also happen at home if the wine is exposed to too much heat.

Indications from smells

  • The red wine smells like vinegar. As mentioned earlier, this is most likely the result of oxidation and the wine becomes so acidic that it is no longer pleasant to drink. I would recommend discarding the wine once it reaches this point.
  • It smells musty, corked or like wet cardboard. This is most likely the result of your wine being “corked” and the result of wood fungus coming into contact with the wine.
  • If the red wine smells like sherry and it is actually not sherry, it means that it has probably gone bad.

Notes by taste

  • The red wine tastes like vinegar. If you've smelled the vinegar and still decided to try it, and you can taste it too, the wine is definitely oxidized. Throw it away!
  • The red wine tastes sparkling. If one sip feels like drinking a can of Sprite, it means the wine has spoiled. This means that the wine has undergone a second fermentation and is usually a reason to pour the bottle down the drain.
  • The red wine tastes flat. If the red wine has no flavor and it tastes "lifeless" and lacks the taste of fruit, it is most likely either bad or just a very bad bottle of wine.


So to sum it up, your best bet is to have your Red wine within a few days consume if you have opened the bottle, while you can probably keep it for years if you leave it unopened (of course only if it is stored in the right conditions, e.g. in a wine cooler).

Have you had any experiences with bad wine? I would love to hear from you and your story, feel free to post a comment below this article.

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