There are few pleasures as enthralling as opening a fresh bottle of wine. Whether you’re a red, white, sparkling or rose drinker, we can all agree hearing the satisfying pop of the cork exiting the bottle is an unmatched feeling of calm.
The first sip through to the last drop in the glass is nothing short of divine, so much so that you might choose to savour the taste by putting the cork back in the bottle and stashing the remainder of the liquid gold away for another time.
You might think that the cork and the fridge will preserve your wine for an eternity, but you could be in for a shock when last week’s greatest pleasure has turned into this week’s bitterest disappointment.
No need to be ashamed if this has happened to you – we’re all guilty of pushing our wine to the limits. It’s easily done, but it’s also easily avoided when you know the lifespan of wine. In this article, we’ll detail how long wine of all descriptions can be kept so you need never fear sipping a bitter vinegar anymore.
How Long Does Open Wine Last?
This is the question on every wine drinker’s lips, but it’s not an open-and-close answer. When wine is opened it is exposed to oxygen which means it ages faster. This increased ageing rate is responsible for the wine turning bitter and unpleasant after a few days of being opened.
The Bodies of Wine
How long wine lasts once opened will depend on its body, and this is determined by its alcohol percentage. As a general rule of thumb, the different wine bodies of wine and their percentages are as below:
- Light-bodied wine – clean, crisp and light tasting wines (such as Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc) with an alcohol volume on or below 12.5%
- Medium-bodied wine – heavier than light-bodied wines but not specifically heavy (such as Merlot and Pinot Grigio) wit an alcohol volume between 12.5% and 13.5%
- Full-bodied wine – the heaviest and most complex of all the wines (such as Malbec and Shiraz) with an alcohol volume on or exceeding 13.5%
Another thing that affects how long wine lasts once opened is the levels of tannins. Wine tannins are natural compounds found within grape skins, stems and seeds. Tannins are what make the wine have a drying effect in your mouth.
Tannins are added to wine when the skin, seeds and stems of the grapes are left to sit with the pressed grapes. The longer they’re left to sit, the stronger the tannins are and the dryer the wine is.
Differing tannin contents can extend or decrease the lifespan of a wine. As well as being responsible for the drying effect, tannins are also antioxidants which explains why they impact how long you can keep your wine in the fridge for.
How Long Does White Wine Last?
White wine was crowned the wine of choice for 41% of Britons, with Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio coming out on top. These are light-bodied wines which are on or below 12.5% in alcohol volume. The typical shelf life for light white wines once opened is around the 5-7 days mark when kept in the fridge with a cork in.
If you prefer a full-bodied white wine like Chardonnay, you have between three and five days to drink it before it goes bad, but it will go off faster if you don’t keep it in the fridge with a cork in.
Generally speaking, white wine has a shorter lifespan when open because it has fewer tannins in. As previously mentioned, tannins come from the skin of the grapes, and white wine is made without the grape skins which is why the tannin levels are lower and why the wine won’t last quite as long as its red counterpart.
How Long Does Red Wine Last?
Red wines tend to be more full-bodied and typically last longer than wite wines because they’re made using grape skins. This means they’re richer in tannins and therefore have more antioxidant properties.
You can expect a light red wine such as Grenache to stay fresh for between two and three days, whereas a medium red wine like Merlot will be drinkable for up to five days after it’s been uncorked. A full-bodied, tannin-rich wine like Zinfandel has the longest shelf life of all the reds, exceeding six to seven days.
How Long Does Sparkling Wine Last?
Sparkling wine – regardless of its variety – will inevitably expire quickly because it will go flat, so two to three days is all you’ll get (if you’re lucky). Of course, if you don’t mind drinking a flat glass of wine, you could push it to three to four days.
How Long Does Wine Last Unopened?
The beauty of wine lies in the fact it can be safely stored and kept for years. This depends heavily on the type of wine and can range from three years to 20 years, but wine can last indefinitely when stored in a proper wine cellar.
Fine wine lasts the longest of all, with red wine nipping at its heels and white wine lasting the least amount of time when unopened.
Unless you’re planning on keeping your wine unopened and stored on a wine rack in a cellar for decades to come, you have just under a week to enjoy your lovingly crafted liquid gold.
If you have any questions about wine, wine racks or the ageing process, please contact us and we’ll be happy to help.