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Does Red Wine Go Bad?

You’ve likely heard the expression, “aged like a fine red wine” before. It’s popular, and for good reason. While most wines aren’t meant to be aged, in fact only 1% of wines produced worldwide are intended for cellaring, red wines are different. You see, oxidation and tannins, elements of the grape often found in the stem, change over time. They turn to sediment and can separate from the rest of the blend, turning what once may have been a highly acidic, brash wine into a smooth, mellow and complex flavor palate. Experts will tell you the aroma compounds only become more sensational over the years as well.

red wine being poured into a glass


Even so, most red wines can and do go bad if you leave them sitting around. Your standard variety table wines, the stuff most of us buy at the store, can only last about 2-3 years after expiration. If you’re trying to preserve a wine, say a bottle from your wedding day to be consumed on your ten year anniversary, you’ll want to do a bit of research before just putting the wine in the cellar.

There is such a thing as too much aging. It’s a very delicate balance, as it turns out.

Be sure to store primarily red wines, as whites and sparkling wines don’t do as well in the cellar. Especially for the novice enthusiast. Also, your basement is not a proper place to store any wine. You need to store it in a proper cellar that is cool, dry, and monitored by a humidifier. Another rule of thumb? Any bottle priced around $40 or less isn’t meant to be aged, and won’t benefit from it either.

Everything changes once the wine is opened, too. No matter if the vintage is 2013, or 1813, once the cork is popped you’re on a timeline. In general, the cooler the wine needs to be kept the shorter it’s lifespan. A typical sparkling wine is only good for 24-72 hours, white wines can last 3-5 days, and even reds have a maximum life expectancy of about a week. The one exception is a fortified and boxed wines, which can go up to a month once opened.

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