When Does Wine Expire? – Wine Country Travel

The best part about coming home from a busy workday is opening up a bottle and enjoying a glass of wine. Wine contains various ingredients that can help relax and provide us with multiple health benefits. We often want to keep a bottle of wine with us for an extended period of time so that we can soak in its ambiance. Wine, however, does reach at which its past that prime drinking window and that depends on how well you store it and how often you open the bottle. Since no one wants to waste this exquisite beverage or serve bad wine, it only makes sense to learn about how it ages and how it might reach that expiration date.

Fortunately for you, we here at Wine Country Travel gathered all the information that you need to know about how long wine lasts, when wine expires, and what you can do to extend its potability.

How Long Does Wine Last?

The common misconception is that all wine will continue to improve with age. In fact, most experts agree that only 5-10% of all wine will improve with more than 1 year of aging and only 1% of all wine improves with more than 5 years of aging. As long as the wine is unopened and stored at a proper temperature and humidity, it could have the potential to be there for years. If you have high-quality wine, you might be able to leave it in the cellar for many years and it will still taste amazing.

Once you open a bottle of wine, it could continue to taste fantastic for a couple of days or maybe even a week, but after this time the drinkability of the wine quickly deteriorates. For this reason, it’s essential to drink it quickly before it deteriorates. When the wine is open, it’s best to keep it in the refrigerator, if at all possible. Another thing to keep in mind is that after opening up a bottle of wine, you must tightly seal it. You can use the original cork or a stopper to close it. The goal is to make sure that the air does not seep into the liquid.

Related: 10 Great Food Pairings With Wine

Wine Expiration Date

People often ask, what is the "expiration date" on my bottle of wine? Wine isn't like a gallon of milk that will have a "drink by" date on it and be rotten after while, but it does have a peak drinking window. After it passes that window, the wine may still be drinkable, but might not taste as good as it could have and in some cases, if you wait too long to drink your wine, the taste may not be bearable any longer.

People then often ask, "Well, how do I know when my wine is in the prime drinking window?" Unfortunately, there isn't an exact science for answering that question, but we do have some rules of thumb we generally go by:

  • Although price is not always a good indicator of quality, if it is a higher priced wine, the potential to age it 1-5 years or even 5 years+, is usually greater.
  • The wines you buy at your local grocery store or convenience store are usually wines that fall into the "drink within one year" category.
  • When in doubt, consult the experts or the winery. Many websites and magazines provide reviews and ratings of wines and will usually give a drinking window of when they think the wine will be best to drink. Many wineries also have suggestions on how long they think their wines will last with proper storage.
  • If we find a wine that we really enjoy and think might have a good aging potential, we will buy 6 bottles or more and open a bottle every couple years to see how it is tasting. Its a fun way to see how the wine evolves over time and if we hit a point we think its not quite tasting as good, we know its time to drink whatever we have left in the cellar.

Now let’s talk a little bit about the open bottles of wine. As previously mentioned, it's vital to place open bottles in the refrigerator. Open bottles of wine can last for 3 to 5 days and maybe up to a week, cooking wine lasts for 1 to 2 months, and boxed wine lasts around 6 to 12 months.

How to Tell if the Wine Has Gone Bad?

You can easily tell if your wine has gone bad. Bad wine often has a leaky cork, cloudy appearance, a sour taste, or a foul smell. Its best to just dump the wine if you know it has reached that point. Keep in mind that deteriorated wine would often have a sour and vinegary type taste, which can be very unpleasant for your palate.

Boxed wine is often cheaper and a bit lesser quality, but lasts longer once the wine is open. The primary reason for this is that the wine is packaged in boxes. Such packaging does not allow air to seep in and ferment the liquid. The boxes often contain a bag inside, in which the liquid is placed, so it is automatically sealed tight even after opening it.

Related: The Etiquette of Wine Tasting

How to Store Wine So it Doesn’t Go Bad?

If you want to keep your wine for a long and extended period of time, then it’s best to invest in a wine cellar. That's doesn't necessarily mean that you need to build a special room in your house.  There are many great wine cellars that are the size of refrigerators or even smaller available for purchase. The proper environment would be dark and cool with a temperature of around 55 - 60°F, or 13°C, a humidity range of 50-80%, and not subject to much vibration. This is ideal for storing and aging both red and white wines. When you then get ready to serve your wine, you chill the white a little more and let the red warm up some. Make sure the bottles are lying on their sides. The goal of the horizontal angle is to keep the corks moist, which preserves its ability to prevent air from seeping through the bottle. To keep it simple, remember that proper storage is something a cool, dark, humid and not vibrating.

The worst place to store your wine, if you want to age it properly, is in the kitchen. The kitchen is usually the warmest and brightest room in the house. The light and heat will contribute to premature aging and can easily ruin your wine.


When you purchase a bottle of high-quality red or white wine, you will never have to worry about it going bad in a couple of days. With the correct storage techniques and good quality wine, you can rest assured that you can savor its elegant taste for a long and extended period of time. You can also educate and impress your guests with knowledge and tips in storing wine and keeping it fresh for longer. That way, no one will have to throw away good wine because of improper storage methods.

If you love wine as much as we do, be sure to check out our wine tours in Sonoma and Napa Valley!

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