The Secret Shelf Life of Wine

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how long does wine last

Wine has a reputation for being palatable only fresh from uncorking, with many of the magical properties that have made wine popular for centuries upon centuries being lost in the initial hours. While it is indisputable that a bottle of premium wine is at its absolute best before exposure to oxygen, the other fact is that oxygen is the catalyst that truly opens the deeper flavors of a wine to be savored by the drinker, and many wines can be sampled again long after opening with proper storage.

Time Frames

Extended exposure does rob a wine of its character over time, but much of its positive aspects are retained much longer than commonly thought. Red wines, white wines and roses can be easily enjoyed several days after uncorking with minimal loss in flavor, although the quality of the wine will begin to dip considerably after 5 days or so, with pronounced flavors and aromas becoming more difficult to distinguish.

A special note comes in the case of Champagne, whose defining characteristic is the tiny bubbles of carbonation that dissipate effervescently in the minutes after the cork is popped. The brilliant but short lifespan of its signature trait means that these wines are best consumed as soon as they are opened, so a bottle should only be opened when it will be finished in short order.

Fortified Wines

Fortified wine represents another special category of wines thanks to the brandy or other distilled spirits which give it its name. The higher alcohol level serves to keep the wine fresher for longer, and so a fortified wine such as Port will retain its characteristics for up to a full month if stored in a room temperature area away from bright light. This preservative effect increases with the alcohol content of the wine, and so more heavily fortified wines can be kept for even longer.

Few will argue that most winemakers crafts their wares with the intention that they be enjoyed soon after opening, but wine lovers can take heart that their favorite bottle will not turn to vinegar hours after it is first opened.

A bottle stopper designed for a tight fit that mimics the function of a cork is the best choice for preserving wine, and all wines should be kept safely in the refrigerator or other cool, dark area before and after the bottle is open to prolong their shelf life.


  1. vickie couturier says

    I love a nice glass of good wine,,dont get it often enough

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