Have you had a bottle of unopened wine around in your house for a long period of time, but you are unsure if it will still be good to drink?
Have you heard that keeping wine for longer helps it age and therefore taste better, but you have also heard that it can go bad after a long time?
Sometimes with wine, it is difficult to tell how long you should be keeping your unopened bottles for, but also how long is too long.
The truth of the matter is that nothing stays good forever, the best high quality wines, and the cheapest low-quality bottle will all eventually turn bad and be disgusting to drink.
It is just a question of knowing how long to keep them and when how long is too long.
This guide will answer all the questions you have on the lifespan of unopened bottles of wine and how to preserve your wine to make it last as long as possible!
If you do not know if your unopened wine is good, keep reading to find out if it is!
How Long Can You Keep Wine Unopened?
There are 2 important factors that will be the most influential when it comes to deducing the lifespan of your wine.
First is the type of wine you have, second is the conditions the wine has been stored in.
As you can probably guess, an unopened bottle of wine will last longer than one which is opened.
This is because wine is designed to have a longer life than similar drinks.
The grapes which wine is made from are fermented and yeast is added in to convert sugar into alcohol.
This process keeps the wine much more easy to preserve than simple juice.
The lower sugar content makes it, so unhealthy bacteria will have less to feed on, and all the alcohol content creates a difficult environment for bacteria to survive in.
Because of these naturally preserving elements of wine, it is capable of lasting for long periods of time and why vintage wine is so popular.
But in spite of this, wine will still start to break down over long periods of time.
There is a general pattern for how long a wine will last based on its expiration date:
- White wine will last on average 1 to 2 years after its expiration date
- Red wine will be able to last around 2 to 3 years beyond its expiration date
- Cooking wine is still usable 3 to 5 years after expiration
- Fine wines can last from anywhere between 10 and 20 years with proper preservation
With the exception of some outliers, most wine is intended to be enjoyed soon after it has been bottled as this is when both the aroma and the flavor will be at its best.
If you have spent less than $30 on your wine, you should want to drink it before 2 years of owning it to get the best experience possible.
This does not make them bad wines, they are just wines that do not improve with age.
The concept of fine wines that improve with age is usually reserved for richer red wines like Merlot, or Cabernet.
While their flavors will get more mellow and delicious over time, you have to store them properly to make sure this happens.
They are also expensive, so some people see the process of aging them as an unnecessary risk, especially if they do not have the knowledge on how to properly preserve them.
These fine wines are the exception to the rule of wanting to drink your wine before 2 years of owning but to do this you will need to have some expertise on how to properly preserve your fine wine.
How To Properly Preserve Unopened Wine
There are some key ideas which should be followed when preserving your wine, and if you can pull them off you should be able to keep your wine in good condition, so they can be enjoyed when you finally drink them.
Keep Unopened Wine Somewhere Dark
The reason why wine bottles are made of a dark non-clear glass is to block out the sun, while this is effective, it will not do all the work.
The UV from the sun will make the chemical compounds in the wine break down making it lose its aroma and flavor.
To stop this from happening keep your wine as far from direct sunlight as possible.
Keep Unopened Wine Somewhere Cool
While a wine cellar is ideal, you do not need one but should try to mimic its conditions.
Wine used to be stored underground to keep it cool and reduce the effects of changing temperatures.
The best temperature for storing wine is around 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can use a dedicated wine refrigerator if you have the space and budget but if this is not an option try and mimic the qualities of a cellar as closely as possible.
Keep Unopened Wine In A Properly Humid Area
Most traditional wine is sealed with cork, and you will want to keep this wine in a slightly humid area, so the cork does not dry out and shrink.
If this happens air as well as bacteria gets into the wine which will taint the flavor of the wine.
You can keep the cork sufficiently moist by storing the wine on its side, so the wine stays in contact with the cork.
If you follow all of the storage advice, your wine should last as long as recommended in the first section on how long different wines last.
If you are still unsure if you should drink the wine, you can see how far it is past its vintage, consider the type of wine you are testing, and then give it a smell test and finally a small taste test.
If it passes all of these tests your wine is safe and good to drink!