We all love drinking wine, but what should you do when you can't finish an opened bottle? How long will it still be drinkable? The long answer is...it depends. But the short answer? 1-2 days.
Say what?! Yes! A bottle of wine maybe only has a day or two after it has been opened. After about 48 hours, the flavors in the bottle will have changed so much that the wine will taste drastically different than when you first opened it.
Now, like everything in wine, there are definitely exceptions to what I just told you. If you opened, say, a 4-year old Barolo that was so giant that it needed some time to “open up” and become drinkable, then it will probably be good for a little longer. But we’re talking about everyday wine here, friends. And 90% of wines out there fall into this category. So believe me when I say your wine has 48 hours before it needs to go down the drain.
So why is there this short timeline for drinking a bottle of wine? Because as soon as you pop that cork or twist off the screw cap, the wine will come into contact with outside air. Oxygen is a big killer of wine and as soon as it touches it, there’s no way to stop its effects. Over time, oxygen essentially turns wine into vinegar. From the moment you open the bottle, changes will start happening to your wine.
At first, oxygen might “open up” wine a little bit, releasing desirable aromatics and flavors. But as time goes on, those aromatics start changing for the worse--any fruit components go away, tannins and structure deteriorates...it’s a sad process.
How to Slow Down Your Wine From Going Bad
What can we do about it? Like I said earlier, there’s no going back once that bottle has been opened. But there are some things you can do to help your wine stay fresh a little longer.
If you have decided that you can’t finish a bottle until later, here's what I do: stick the cork back in it (or screw the cap back on) and put the bottle in the refrigerator. Do this no matter if the wine is white, rose, or red. Cooler temperatures in the refrigerator (rather than just leaving the bottle on the counter) will reduce the effects of oxygen in the wine and give your bottle a little more time before changing too much to be undrinkable. Drink the rest of that wine the next day...if you wait any longer, the wine may have changed too much and won't display the flavors that the winery intended it to.
There are some other gadgets out there that can help your wine last a little longer, but really nothing more will prolong the aging time to more than an extra day or so. I used to have this suction pump thingy that claimed to suck oxygen out of the bottle to preserve it. It didn’t work for me so I don’t recommend this method.
There’s also wine spray that you can buy at most wine stores and amazon. I personally don’t use this either but know of many restaurants that do...and it works pretty well. All you do is spray it into the inside of the bottle and it pushes out the oxygen and replaces it with heavier argon gas. Still--drink your bottle within a few days of using the wine spray because your wine will still change! Just not as quickly as if you didn’t use it.
The final contraption out there for wine preservation is the Coravin system, which is very pricey (think $200-$300) but pretty effective. A Coravin has a needle that you inject into the cork of an unopened bottle of wine. Then you squeeze a trigger which will dispense wine from the bottle through a spout. It replaces the wine with Argon gas which will not alter the wine, so theoretically no oxygen comes into contact with the wine. Although many people praise the Coravin system, I have witnessed that the wine still changes in the bottle over time...so don't bank on opening a bottle months after being Coravined and having it taste the same way.
Bottom line--drink your wine within 1 day of opening it. If you don’t finish it, put the cork back in and stick the bottle in the fridge to help keep it fresher longer. If you find yourself with a wine that has been opened for more than 2 days, just taste it to see if it is drinkable. If you still like it, drink it! Otherwise, down the drain it goes!