Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the world’s most popular red wines, known for its full body and bold flavor profile. But like all wine, Cabernet has a finite shelf life and will eventually start to degrade in quality if left untouched for too long. So how long does an unopened bottle of Cabernet last before it goes bad? Here’s a quick overview of Cabernet Sauvignon’s longevity and tips for maximizing the shelf life of your favorite Cab.
How long does unopened Cabernet last?
An unopened bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon will typically last:
- 1-2 years past the vintage date if stored properly
- Up to 5-6 years past the vintage date if cellared in optimal conditions
Vintage refers to the year the grapes were harvested and made into wine. Cabernet Sauvignons with recent vintages like 2021 or 2020 will keep for about 1-2 more years if stored correctly. Older vintages can potentially last up to 5-6 more years when cellared in perfect wine storage conditions.
What factors affect an unopened bottle’s shelf life?
Several key factors impact how long an unopened bottle of Cabernet will stay fresh and drinkable:
- Vintage – Younger vintages last longer.
- Storage conditions – Consistent cool temperature around 55°F and high humidity are ideal.
- Bottle format – Standard 750mL bottles preserve wine better than large format bottles.
- Winemaking – Higher quality, more age-worthy Cabernets last longer.
Paying attention to these factors allows you to maximize the shelf life of your unopened Cabernet bottles.
How to store unopened Cabernet for longevity
To get the most lifespan out of your unopened Cabernets, follow these tips for proper storage:
- Keep bottles stored on their sides to keep corks moist and prevent air exposure.
- Maintain a cool, dark storage temperature around 55°F.
- Keep humidity around 70% to prevent cork drying.
- Avoid temperature fluctuations and direct light exposure.
- Store bottles away from vibrations which can disturb sediment.
Ideally, unopened Cabernet bottles should be stored in a wine fridge or cellar that allows refrigeration and humidification. If properly cellared, higher end Cabernets can evolve beautifully for many years.
How long does opened Cabernet last?
Once opened, Cabernet Sauvignon has a much shorter shelf life compared to unopened bottles. Here’s how long opened Cabernet will last:
- With a cork – 3-5 days when stored properly.
- With a wine saver – Up to 1-2 weeks when using an effective wine preservation system.
Oxygen exposure is the enemy of opened wine. Re-corking and refrigeration help slow oxidation, but Cabernet is best consumed shortly after opening.
Maximizing opened Cabernet shelf life
To get the most life out of opened Cabernet, follow these tips:
- Re-cork the bottle tighty and store upright to prevent oxygen exposure.
- Use a wine preservation system like Private Preserve to displace oxygen.
- Refrigerate opened bottles at 40-45°F to slow oxidation.
- Consume within 3-5 days, and 1-2 weeks if using a wine saver.
Enjoying opened bottles quickly is key to prevent Cabernet from deteriorating in flavor and aroma shortly after opening.
How to tell if Cabernet has gone bad
Over time, heat, light exposure and oxygen will cause Cabernet to degrade. Here are common signs that an opened or unopened bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon has gone bad:
- Fading color – Cabernet loses its deep purple/red hue, taking on a brownish color.
- Off aromas – Bad Cabernet gives off unpleasant smells instead of fruity, earthy notes.
- Flat or vinegary taste – Flavor profile falls apart, often taking on a vinegary tang.
- Haze or particles – Sediment beyond normal bottle aging is a bad sign.
- Leaking/damaged cork – Wet, crumbly corks indicate faulty seals.
Bad Cabernet is instantly recognizable during tasting. Trust your senses – when in doubt, don’t drink it!
When to discard Cabernet
Cabernet that has gone bad should be discarded. Don’t try to salvage wine that shows the following:
- Browning, fading color
- Pungent, unpleasant aromas
- Sour, vinegary taste
- Significant sediment
- Wet, leaking cork
oxidized Cabernet with these traits poses no health risks if consumed, but will offer poor flavor and texture.
Tips for buying Cabernet to cellar
When shopping for Cabernet intended for cellaring:
- Select bottles from top regions like Napa Valley, Bordeaux, etc.
- Look for Cabernets with aging potential based on tannins and acidity.
- Choose bottles from highly rated vintages.
- Buy the best quality you can reasonably afford.
- Inspect bottles for proper fill levels, sound corks, undamaged labels.
Higher quality Cabernets from prestigious regions and better vintages will have the greatest upside when cellared properly for years.
Ideal drinking window for aged Cabernet
Determining peak drinking windows requires judging an aged Cabernet’s evolution. General guidelines:
- Most Cabernet is best around 5-8 years after vintage.
- Youthful fruit fades, earthy notes emerge in 10-15 year old bottles.
- Secondary nuances peak from 15-25 years post-vintage.
- Mature Cabernets 25-50 years old offer fully developed complexity.
Part of the appeal of cellaring Cabernet is checking in on how flavors develop over decades in bottle. Trying aged bottles periodically lets you monitor the aging process and identify when Cabernet reaches its peak drinking window.
Serving and pairing aged Cabernet Sauvignon
When enjoying properly matured Cabernet Sauvignon:
- Decant one hour before serving to allow sediment to settle and aromas to open up.
- Pour into large, red wine glasses to allow aromatic wines room to breathe.
- Pair with bold dishes like grilled red meats, stews, and aged cheeses that can match Cabernet’s intensity.
Mature Cabernet deserves a little extra care when serving to fully appreciate all the nuanced flavors and textures that develop as these wines age over the years.
To summarize how long Cabernet Sauvignon lasts:
- Unopened bottles last 1-2 years stored properly, up to 5-6 years when cellared in perfect conditions.
- Optimal storage at 55°F with 70% humidity extends shelf life.
- Opened bottles last 3-5 days with re-corking, up to 2 weeks using preservation methods.
- Bad Cabernet shows fading color, unpleasant aromas, and vinegary flavors.
- Discard oxidized Cabernet that has gone past its prime.
- Buy premium Cabernet from good vintages and regions for aging.
Understanding proper storage conditions and signs of oxidation allows you to maximize Cabernet shelf life. With optimal cellaring, top Cabernet Sauvignons can evolve beautifully for many years.
How long does unopened Cabernet Sauvignon last at room temperature?
At room temperature of around 68-72°F, an unopened bottle of Cabernet will last:
- 6-12 months past the vintage date if stored properly
- 1-2 years at most in less than ideal conditions
Room temperature shortens shelf life considerably compared to wine cellar conditions. Drink Cabernet intended for aging within the first year or two if keeping it at typical room temps.
Can old Cabernet make you sick?
Aged Cabernet that has gone bad from oxidation will not make you sick. There are no pathogens that can grow in wine and cause food-borne illness. However, old, corked wine may not taste very enjoyable.
Some possible side effects of heavily oxidized wine include:
- Stomach ache
- Unpleasant gastrointestinal effects
But these relate to the deterioration in wine quality rather than any type of infection. So while old Cabernet won’t cause food poisoning, it’s still best avoided once past its prime drinking window.
How long does Cabernet Sauvignon last after opening?
Once opened, Cabernet Sauvignon only lasts:
- 3-5 days when re-corked and refrigerated
- 1-2 weeks at most with an effective wine preservation system
Exposure to oxygen is what shortens the shelf life of opened Cabernet so dramatically. Drink up opened bottles within a few days to a week to enjoy Cabernet at its best.
Does Cabernet Sauvignon age well?
Yes, Cabernet Sauvignon can age exceptionally well compared to many varieties. Top factors contributing to Cabernet’s aging potential include:
- High tannin levels – Tannins preserve wine and allow maturation over time.
- Good acidity – Maintains freshness as flavors develop.
- Ample extract – More intense wine stands up better to aging.
- Quality winemaking – Skilled craftsmanship yields balanced, ageworthy wine.
When made well, Cabernet Sauvignon can easily maintain integrity and complexity after a decade or longer in bottle. Top examples from regions like Napa can age for 50+ years before fading.
What happens as Cabernet Sauvignon ages?
As Cabernet Sauvignon matures over years in bottle, it undergoes several key flavor and structural changes:
- Primary fruit becomes subdued.
- Floral notes transform into earthy, savory qualities.
- Plush tannins soften and integrate.
- Acidity declines subtly but provides freshness.
- Oak imprint integrates into wine texture.
- Complex secondary and tertiary aromas emerge.
Masterful aging results in Cabernet evolving into a harmonious, multipart wine offering both richness and finesse. Young fruit notes transform into leathery, herbal qualities that define mature Cabernet.
How do you store opened Cabernet Sauvignon overnight?
To store opened Cabernet Sauvignon overnight:
- Re-cork the bottle tightly to limit oxygen exposure.
- Stand bottle upright so wine stays in contact with cork.
- Refrigerate overnight at 40-45°F.
- Consider using a wine preservation system to maintain freshness.
- Drink any leftover wine the next day for optimal flavor.
Minimizing the time Cabernet is exposed to air helps retain its signature aroma and flavor even if enjoying it over two days. But it’s still best consumed shortly after opening.
Cabernet Sauvignon can be an incredibly long-lived wine when stored under ideal cellar conditions. While young Cabernets may last only a couple years, top examples with aging potential can evolve beautifully for decades. Understanding factors like vintage, storage conditions, and winemaking helps you determine shelf life. Properly matured Cabernet offers a complex, rewarding drinking experience well worth waiting patiently for. Follow proper storage protocols, know what flavors to expect at different ages, and your prized Cabernet bottles will develop gracefully for many years to come.