What Happens If You Drink Old Opened Wine?

what-happens-if-you-drink-old-opened-wine

Have a bottle of old opened wine sitting on your counter and wondering if it’s still safe to drink?

What Happens If You Drink Old Opened Wine?

You won’t get sick if you drink old opened wine, but you’ll still get drunk. Alcohol acts as a natural preservative in your wine protecting it from harmful microbes that could give you food poisoning, so you’re not going to get sick. But after you pop the cork, your wine naturally oxidizes over time and the aromas, flavors, and colors will change. You probably won’t enjoy drinking your old opened wine.

Comparison Chart: Young Wines, Old Wines, and Too Old Wines

What Happens If You Drink Old Opened Wine? - old chardonnay in wine glass
Check out this old Chardonnay that’s turned color from pale lemon to deep gold. It also has bruised apple aromas telling me that it’s oxidized. It’s still safe to drink, though.

White Wine

TypeColorAromasFlavors
Young WineLight yellowFruityFresh or jammy fruit
Old WineGoldenComplexHoney, nuts, dried fruit
Too OldAmber, darkerOxidized, AlcoholicAlcohol, Sherry-like, bruised apple, vinegar

Quick Tip: Here’s how to tell if your white wine is bad.

Red Wine

TypeColorAromasFlavors
Young WineRuby redFruityFresh or jammy fruit
Old WineBrick redEarthyLeather, tobacco, prune,
raisin, dried flowers
Too OldBrownish, palerMaderized, AlcoholicAlcohol, vinegar

Helpful Tip: If you want to get a sense of what old, spoiled wine tastes like, try drinking Madeira and Amontillado Sherry. These two wine styles have oxidized and maderized notes you’ll pick up in old wines left open too long. This is a fantastic experiment with fortified wines.

Can You Get Sick from Drinking Old Wine?

No, you can’t get sick from drinking old wine. Very old wine will taste like alcohol and maybe even start to taste like vinegar. Alcohol is the only structural component in wine that doesn’t fade over time. So as the wine ages, fruity, floral, and oaky goodness fades and the wine’s alcohol becomes more noticeable.

If you’re drinking an old, opened wine that’s been sitting around it probably smells (and tastes) much more alcoholic than when you first enjoyed it. The level of alcohol hasn’t changed, it’s just more apparent.

Best Way to Save Open Wine

The best way to save an open bottle of wine is to stick it in the fridge after you pour yourself a glass. Colder temperatures slow down the chemical reactions that will oxidize your wine. You can also invest in a wine preservation system, like a Coravin. This is a worthwhile investment if you’re drinking expensive bottles of wine.

How Long Will Leftover Wine Stay Good For?

If you keep your leftover wine on your kitchen counter and do nothing special, your wine will be good for about 2-3 days. 3 days is pushing it… Put your leftover wine in your fridge.

How Long Does an Open Bottle of Wine Last? Different Styles

Different wine styles will stay fresh and aromatic for different lengths of time depending on how they’re made. Check out this at-a-glance list:

Open Wine Lifespan

Wine Type Lifespan
Sparkling Wine 1-2 days – lose sparkle after 24 hrs
Rosé Wine 4-5 days
Light White Wine 4-5 days
Full-bodied White Wine 3-5 days
Red Wine 3-6 days
Dessert Wine 3-7 days
Fortified Wine 1+ months depending on style

Quick Tip: As the only wine drinker in my household, I’m keenly interested in ways to keep my leftover wine fresh for as long as possible. So, I wrote this exhaustive post that looks at how acid, alcohol, tannin, and storage tricks can help keep your leftover wine good for 5-7 days, and how different wines will stay fresher longer.

Thirsty for More?

Check out how to tell if your white wine has gone bad here.

Here’s how to tell if your wine has cork taint (blegh, sadness).

Here’s how to store open Champagne and sparkling wines.

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