How to Tell if Wine is Bad? (Step by Step)


I don’t know how it happens but sometimes people forget that they have their wine in storage or in the refrigerator for a long time. Considerable time might have passed where one doubts whether the wine has crossed the point of no return. This might prompt you to ask yourself…

Can you tell if wine has gone bad?

Wine is designed to last long. The very low sugar content present in wine gives very little for bacteria to feed on. The high alcohol content in the wine is a hostile environment for bacteria. These two factors combined make it very difficult for bacteria to break down wine.

How Long Does a Bottle of Wine Last?

How long a bottle of wine will remain consumable will depend on the type of wine, and storage conditions. In general, an unopened bottle of white wine lasts for 2-3 years after the expiry date on the label. Red wine is good for 3-5 years after the expiry on the label. Fine wine will stay good for decades. Some steps can be taken when you are unsure about how long the bottle of wine has been sitting out.

The Steps

  1. Check expiry: Most wine bottles have an expiry date. Wine will be good at least a couple of years after the expiry date on the label.
  2. Vintage year: When, in case, no expiry date is given on the label, check the year which the grapes were harvested. It is generally touted on the label. From that information, the expiry date of the bottle could be easily figured out.
  3. Type of wine: As mentioned before fine wine lasts longer than white wine. One couldn’t exactly pinpoint how long each type of wine would last but give a broad comparison. Sparkling wine lasts the least. Full-bodied wines last more than sparkling wines. And light-bodied wines last longer than full-bodied wines.
  4. Testing: Even after checking the expiry, vintage year and type of wine, one cannot be certain whether the wine is consumable or needs to be thrown out without testing. A guide the test wine is given in the next section.

How to Tell if Wine is Bad?

With testing, we could be confident whether the wine can be consumed or not. The testing has to be done in the sequence as given below.

  • Visual testing: Check the wine for a change in color. If white wine has gone bad, it’ll turn to a murky color, yellowish-brown/ color of straw. If the color is changed, throw the wine out. For red wine in dark bottles, this can’t be checked.
  • Bubble formation in the bottle. If bubbles are formed in the bottle, it is not a good sign. It is not fit for consumption.
  • Smell testing: If the wine has gone bad, it’ll smell like vinegar. So give the wine a sniff. If an acrid smell comes from the wine, it is better down the drain than down your mouth.
  • Style testing: Pour a bit of wine from the bottle into your favorite wine glass and take a light sip. If it tastes like vinegar it has gone bad. It’ll become pretty apparent from taste whether the wine is fit for consumption or not. A little bit of bad wine doesn’t hurt.

Ideal Storage Conditions

Considering this care has to be given in storing wine. Let me list some of the factors to be considered and explain the reasons behind it.

  • Cool: Wine has to be kept in a relatively cool place. This is the main reason why wine cellars are built below the ground. There is a stable lower temperature below the ground level. When the temperature around the wine bottle is high it causes the wine to disintegrate. So wine needs to be stored in a cool place. Every one of us cannot afford to build a cellar, so wine chillers are ideal places to store wine. Refrigerators also work but just remember to warm up the wine before consumption.
  • Dark: As with warmth light also helps the wine to disintegrate. This is another advantage with an underground cellar. Natural light is scarce. This is the reason why wine comes in dark bottles. Boxed wine lasts longer because of this. So take care to store the wine in a dark place.
  • Humid: When the air around a wine bottle is dry, it also dries the cork of the bottle. This will cause air and other contaminants to enter the bottle, which again helps in disintegrating wine. This is why wine bottles are stored sideways. This way the cork will remain damp with the liquid inside the bottle. This will ensure a tight fit of the cork and keeps the elements out of the bottle.

Here’s a full in depth guide on how to store your wine bottles correctly, if you want to read more.

Care has to be taken to store the wine so it lasts long. It is always a good idea to test the wine before throwing away. What other tips do you have to tell if wine has gone bad? Let us know in the comments! Also don’t forget to tag us in your Instagram photos involving wine to get a chance to get featured on our page.

Don’t forget, we’re sponsored by Amazon Audible and they are offering all of our Wine on My Time community an exclusive offer of 2 FREE Ebooks when signing up for a free trial! You can sign up for a free trial here. Take a break from planning and unwind with your favorite book and a glass of wine of course!

Thanks for reading! Check out some additional Wine on My Time articles and enhance your wine knowledge! Check out Beginner Wines You Need to TryWhat is the Best Wine for Weddings, or How to Cork Wine Correctly. Bottoms up! We’ll uncork ya later!! ?

Wine on My Time is a resource blog for wine lovers all across the world! We take pride in delivering the best quality wine material for our readers.

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