How To Tell If Wine Is Bad

Have you recently opened a bottle of wine, and you are unsure if it is still safe to drink, or if it is still a good wine?

Like many different types of food and drink, it can be difficult with wine to be able to work out if it is still good or if it has gone bad.

There are some types of wine that will improve after they have opened while there are others which get worse as soon as this has happened.

It is sometimes difficult to work out the difference between these two and to know simply when a wine has gone bad.

How To Tell If Wine Is Bad?

This article will help you work out if your wine has gone bad, if it is safe to drink, and if it is not bad, how long until it is.

If you are ever unsure over when your wine is good or not, keep reading to get any doubts put to rest.

For a quick answer to this question before going more in-depth; a general rule to follow with wine is if you have kept it open for longer than a week, it is likely that it has already gone bad.

The exception to this is some fortified wines, and/or dessert wines which have a higher alcohol content.

If you are working with unopened wines, the best thing to do is to check their vintage and make sure to store them properly, so they will last as long as they can.

Generally speaking, wine is the best soon after it is bottled with the exception of fine wines.

How To Work Out If Your Wine Has Gone Bad

There are a few key signs to look out for when it comes to working out if wine is good or not.

The next sections will go over some of the easiest signs that wine is not good anymore!

How Does The Wine Look?

Once the wine is open for too long it will change its appearance.

Some people claim wine will still be drinkable after being open for weeks, but in truth it will lose a lot of its quality after being open for just a few days.

A key visible sign to look out for when it comes to the quality of wine is if it is cloudy, or if it leaves a film inside the bottle.

While some wines are cloudy already, if they go clear then cloudy again, this is a sign that there is microbial activity inside the bottle, and it has gone bad.

The color of the wine will also start to change after it has been open for too long. Similarly to an apple, wine browns the more it is exposed to oxygen.

While the browning is not actually a bad thing, it is an indicator that the wine has been exposed to excessive oxygen, and it will start to go bad soon.

You may also be able to recognize small bubbles appearing inside your wine. This of course has the exception of sparkling wine.

But this is in fact a sign of fermentation continuing inside the bottle, and it will give the wine an unpleasant sour taste.

How Does The Wine Smell?

How Does The Wine Smell?

There are two different reasons that wine will start to smell bad.

There is the chance it was a wine fault which most wines have a 1 in 75 chance of happening.

But the more common explanation is that the wine was left out for too long.

There are three different types of smell a wine could get from the 3 different reasons it could go bad.

Reduction is what happens when the wine goes bad because of a wine fault, this will have an incredibly unpleasant smell, usually something like cabbage, garlic or burnt rubber.

If your wine has bacteria present it will start turning into vinegar, this will have a distinct sharp sour smell like vinegar or sauerkraut.

Finally, it will smell bad from too much oxidation which will smell more nutty or like burnt marshmallows or applesauce.

How Does The Wine Taste?

Even if wine has gone bad, you can still taste a small amount without harming yourself as it is not dangerous to ingest in small quantities.

A wine which has gone bad will have a distinct sour flavor which is similar to vinegar and will give your nasal passages a burning sensation.

If a wine has gone bad you will definitely be able to taste it.

Other Ways To Recognize If Wine Has Gone Bad

If you are recognizing that a red wine has started to taste or smell sweet even when it was not previously, this is a sign that it has started to go bad.

If you can see that the cork of the wine is pushed out from the bottle more than it is supposed to, this is a sign that the wine has become overheated, and it has started to expand within the bottle.

If you can detect an astringent or a chemical-like flavor profile this is a sign that the wine has gone bad.

How To Preserve Wine To Stop It Going Bad?

You can slow down the process of wine aging by storing it properly.

When storing your wine you want to make sure it avoids direct sunlight and instead is kept in a cool dark space.

This protects the wine from the heat and UV from the sun which can end up changing its chemical composition.

If you have a wine cellar or refrigerator these are the best methods, but if you do not, try and mimic their qualities.


There are easy signs to tell if wine has gone bad, all you need to do is know how to recognize them.

Through using sight, smell, and taste, it is quite easy to deduce if wine is going to be pleasant to drink or not.

Rachel Edwards
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