Does chocolate wine go bad if opened?

Chocolate wine, also known as cocoa wine, is a sweet dessert wine that incorporates chocolate flavors and aromas. It is made by fermenting grapes and adding chocolate, cocoa powder, or chocolate liqueurs during the fermentation or aging process. Like other wines, chocolate wine is perishable and can go bad once opened. However, there are several factors that determine how long an opened bottle of chocolate wine will last.

How long does opened chocolate wine last?

An opened bottle of chocolate wine will typically last 3-5 days when stored properly. The high sugar and alcohol content help preserve the wine by inhibiting microbial growth. However, chocolate wine has a shorter shelf life than regular grape wines due to the added chocolate ingredients.

Here are some general guidelines for how long opened chocolate wine will last:

Storage Method Shelf Life
Refrigerated 5-7 days
Room temperature (under 70°F) 3-5 days

Properly re-corking and refrigerating opened chocolate wine allows it to stay fresh and drinkable for up to a week. Storing at room temperature reduces the shelf life to just a few days.

Signs that chocolate wine has gone bad

There are a few telltale signs that indicate your opened bottle of chocolate wine is past its prime:

  • Sour or vinegary smell
  • Bubbles – carbonation when poured into a glass
  • Cloudy appearance
  • Grainy or gritty chocolate sediment
  • Off flavors like moldy, dirt, rotten eggs, or band-aids

Chocolate wine is highly susceptible to heat damage and oxidation, which accelerate spoilage. Signs like a sour smell, bubbles, cloudiness, or chalky chocolate sediments mean the wine has started to go bad.

An off or unpleasant flavor is the most telling indicator that chocolate wine has spoiled. It will no longer taste fruity and sweet, but instead have stale, chemical, or rotten flavors.

What causes chocolate wine to go bad once opened?

There are a few main factors that can cause opened bottles of chocolate wine to spoil or go bad faster:


Exposure to oxygen degradation the wine. When a bottle is opened and unfinished portions are left partially full, oxygen can interact with the wine and cause chemical reactions that break down the flavors, aromas, and color.

Heat fluctuations

Heat accelerates the oxidation process and can damage chocolate wine. Leaving an opened bottle sitting out at room temperature allows the wine to heat up and cool down, which stresses the delicate flavors.

Yeast and bacteria

Sugary chocolate wine is prone to microbial spoilage from wild yeast, mold, and bacteria. When a bottle is opened, airborne contaminants have an entry point. Refrigeration inhibits microbial growth.

Poor re-corking

Improperly sealing an opened bottle with a cork that doesn’t create an airtight seal allows oxygen to seep in and spoil the wine. Use a fresh cork that fits snugly.


In aging chocolate wine, cocoa solids and components can drop out as sediment. If stirred up after opening, this sediment imparts bad flavors.

Avoiding oxidation, heat fluctuations, contamination, and sediment agitation minimizes the chances of opened chocolate wine going bad before you can finish it.

How to store opened chocolate wine

To maximize the shelf life of leftover chocolate wine, follow these storage guidelines:

  • Re-cork the bottle tightly to seal out oxygen.
  • Refrigerate opened wine at 40°F or below.
  • Store upright to keep the cork moist and prevent air leaks.
  • Use within 3-5 days.
  • Do not freeze opened wine bottles.

The refrigerator is the best place to keep open bottles of chocolate wine. The cool stable temperature minimizes chemical reactions while allowing the wine to remain drinkable.

Should you use a wine preserver?

Wine preservers are devices that either vacuum out air from the bottle or add inert gases to displace oxygen. This can be effective for prolonging the life of opened regular grape wines.

However, wine preservers are not generally recommended for use with opened bottles of chocolate wine. The wine preserver may disturb sediment or cause light oxidation that degrades the chocolate aromas and body.

Can you reuse chocolate wine corks?

It is not recommended to reuse corks that have already been inserted into a bottle of chocolate wine. Used corks may retain bacteria or create small openings that allow air inside.

Always re-cork opened wine bottles with fresh, unused corks for the best seal. Used corks that have been compressed are also more difficult to insert for proper closure.

Should chocolate wine be decanted after opening?

Most wines are decanted to allow breathing and improve flavor. However, chocolate wines generally should not be decanted after opening the bottle. Exposing the wine to excessive oxygen can quickly degrade delicate chocolate notes.

Chocolate wines also often have sediment that you do not want to disturb through decanting. Vigorous pouring can stir up cocoa solids that impart bitterness if mixed back into the wine. Allow any sediment to settle by gently pouring the chocolate wine into your glass.

Can you use opened chocolate wine for cooking?

Once chocolate wine starts to go bad from oxidation or other flaws, it’s best not to drink it. However, you can salvage an opened bottle that is past its prime by using it for cooking or baking purposes.

Chocolate wine can add rich depth, sweetness, and intense chocolate flavor to many dessert recipes like:

  • Chocolate fondue
  • Chocolate sauce or ganache
  • Chocolate cakes and brownies
  • Chocolate-cherry pies or tarts
  • Mole sauces
  • Mixed into chocolate truffles

Heating the wine eliminates any off flavors while retaining the chocolate goodness. Just avoid cooking with wine that smells or tastes unpleasantly vinegary or rotten.

Tips for serving opened chocolate wine

Follow these tips for best results when serving glasses from an opened bottle:

  • Chill lightly – Serving temperature of 55-60°F brings out chocolate aromas.
  • Pour carefully – Leave any sediment undisturbed in the bottle.
  • Use proper glassware – Stemmed glasses allow you to see the wine’s appearance.
  • Pair with fruit and nuts – Accents like raspberries and almonds complement chocolate wine.
  • Avoid strong cheeses – Pungent cheeses overwhelm the nuanced chocolate notes.

Avoid letting the remainders sit for too long after opening. Re-cork and refrigerate partially consumed bottles if not finishing within a day or two.

The shelf life of unopened chocolate wine

While this article focuses on how long opened chocolate wine lasts, unopened bottles have a much longer shelf life. An unopened, properly stored bottle of chocolate wine typically lasts:

  • 2-4 years if aged in the bottle at the winery
  • 10-20 years for reserve-style chocolate wines

The aging potential comes from the protective bottle seal and lack of oxygen exposure. Favorable storage conditions like a cool, dark place that maintains a constant moderate temperature are still needed for longevity.

Signs of spoiled unopened chocolate wine

On very rare occasions, chocolate wine can go bad before ever opening the bottle. Signs of spoilage in an unopened bottle include:

  • Cloudy appearance/sediment when moved
  • Bulging or leaking cork
  • White crystals on the cork
  • Vinegary or rotten smell if decanted

An unopened spoiled or corked bottle is uncommon if proper cellaring conditions are met. But bottles with damaged corks or stored incorrectly in hot conditions may show premature signs of aging and deterioration.

How to salvage oxidized chocolate wine

If a bottle is opened and the wine immediately smells or tastes oxidized, there are some tricks to try salvaging it:

  • Splash decanting – Vigorously pouring into a decanter oxygenates and softens oxidation.
  • Using copper – A copper penny or copper foil neutralizes sulfur compounds.
  • Adding vitamin C – A pinch of powdered ascorbic acid reduces oxidation.
  • Using oak – Floating an oak cube or chip adds smoothing tannins.

Other options are whisking in a bit of cream, chocolate liqueur, or fruit juice to mask flaws. However, badly oxidized wine may be unsalvageable. When in doubt, don’t drink chocolate wine that tastes or smells unpleasant.

Does chocolate wine need to be refrigerated?

Refrigeration is highly recommended for chocolate wine, both before and after opening. The cold temperature helps preserve the nuanced chocolate flavors and aromas. Appropriate storage temperatures include:

  • Unopened – 50-60°F is ideal
  • Opened – 40°F or colder maximizes shelf life

Cellar temperatures around 55°F are great for aging unopened bottles of chocolate wine for several months or years. Once opened, keep it as cold as possible without freezing to avoid rapid deterioration.


An opened bottle of chocolate wine will stay fresh and enjoyable for 3-5 days when stored properly in the refrigerator. Look for changes in appearance, aroma and taste that signal oxidation, contamination or other degradation has occurred. Re-cork opened bottles tightly and avoid leaving partially filled glasses sitting out too long to get the most out of each bottle before it goes bad. With the right care, you can continue delighting in chocolate wine’s luscious flavors for up to a week after popping the cork.

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