White cooking wine, often used to deglaze pans or enhance the flavor of dishes like risottos and pasta sauces, is a staple in many home kitchens. But unlike a bottle of Chardonnay, cooking wine is rarely consumed in its entirety during a single use. This raises the question: once opened, how long does an opened bottle of white cooking wine last before it goes bad?
An opened bottle of white cooking wine will stay fresh and usable for 4 to 6 months when properly stored in the refrigerator. The acidity and alcohol prevent microbiological growth, allowing white cooking wine to keep significantly longer than white table wine once opened.
How Cooking Wine Differs from Table Wine
Wine designated for cooking often contains additives like salt, spices, or preservatives that prevent microbial growth. The additives mean cooking wine can better withstand exposure to heat and air without spoiling. Table wines like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling lack those additives and therefore have a shorter shelf life. Other differences between cooking and table wines include:
- Cooking wines have more pronounced flavors to stand up to other ingredients.
- Table wines aim for balanced, nuanced flavor rather than assertiveness.
- Quality standards for cooking wines are lower since subtleties get lost during cooking.
- Cooking wines are usually less expensive than table wines.
For these reasons, don’t substitute a $15 bottle of white table wine when a recipe calls for white cooking wine. The nuanced flavors will likely get lost during cooking. Save the good stuff for drinking!
How to Tell if Open Cooking Wine Has Gone Bad
Watch for these signs that an opened bottle of white cooking wine has spoiled and should be discarded:
- Change in color: White cooking wine slowly oxidizes when exposed to air, changing from clear/pale yellow to a darker, amber color.
- Off smells: Cooking wine may smell unpleasant, like vinegar or nail polish remover, when oxidized and spoiled.
- Off tastes: An opened bottle that tastes unpleasantly tart or vinegary should be tossed.
- Mold: Visible surface mold growing in or on the wine indicates it has spoiled and should be discarded.
- Cloudiness or particles: Solid particles or clouding means microbes have contaminated the wine.
As with any food product, it’s better to be safe than sorry if you notice any changes in your opened cooking wine. The small amount you discard is better than ruining an entire dish or meal!
How To Store Open Cooking Wine
Following proper storage methods helps extend the shelf life of opened bottles of cooking wine. Treat opened wine like you would any other opened wine:
- Transfer unused cooking wine from the bottle to a resealable, airtight container. Mason jars work well. This limits oxidation.
- Refrigerate immediately to inhibit microbial growth.
- Let any residual wine from cooking in the bottle drain out before tightly resealing with the bottle’s cap.
- Use a wine pump/saver, sold online and in kitchen stores, to remove oxygen from a half-used bottle before sealing.
- Consume opened wine within a few months and replace annually for best flavor.
Proper refrigeration is key – an opened bottle left sitting out on the counter will quickly deteriorate. For maximum freshness, use cooking wine within a few weeks of opening. But stored properly in the fridge, it will maintain quality for 4-6 months.
How Long Does Unopened Cooking Wine Last?
An unopened, sealed bottle of white cooking wine lasts significantly longer – around 2 to 5 years past the ‘best by’ date printed on the label. The sealed bottle prevents oxidation and contamination.
Follow these guidelines for storing unopened cooking wine:
- Store bottles upright to keep the cork moist and prevent air from entering.
- Refrigeration extends shelf life by slowing chemical reactions.
- Wines last longest at cooler temperatures around 55°F.
- Avoid sunlight exposure which accelerates aging.
- Humidity of around 70% prevents corks from drying out.
- Set wine racks on vibration-free surfaces so sediment settles.
A dry pantry works for short term storage under a year. For longest shelf life though, a wine fridge or cooler basement are best. Regardless of storage method, cook with young wines and avoid any bottles over 5 years old.
Signs Unopened Wine Has Gone Bad
How can you tell if an unopened bottle of cooking wine is still good? Check for these common signs of spoilage:
- Dry, crumbly cork: Indicates wine exposed to too much air.
- White crystals on cork: Tartaric acid crystals, harmless but signals temperature fluctuations.
- Popped out cork: Pressurized gas buildup can force the cork out.
- Cloudy wine: Particulates usually sink, so cloudiness means microbes or contamination.
- Off aromas when uncorked: A bad smell immediately upon opening signals spoilage.
Any unopened bottles that display these traits should be discarded. And remember, appearance alone doesn’t always indicate bad wine. Some spoiled wines still look perfectly fine. If in doubt, don’t risk it!
How Long Does Red Cooking Wine Last After Opening?
The shelf life of opened red cooking wine also falls in the 4-6 month range if stored properly. Because red wines generally contain more alcohol and tannins than white wine, they may last a little bit longer – but still consume opened reds within 6 months for the best flavor.
Follow the same refrigeration and sealing guidelines when storing an opened bottle of red cooking wine. Transfer it to a smaller airtight container, use a pump to remove air, and refrigerate immediately after opening. Make sure any bottles have a tight seal to limit oxygen exposure. And keep the opened wine cooler at around 40°F if possible. With proper refrigeration, an opened red cooking wine should maintain quality for at least 6 months.
Cooking with Flat, Oxidized Wine
Once opened, all wines start to slowly oxidize and deteriorate over time. An opened bottle left too long may turn flat-tasting and vinegary. Is it still OK to cook with wine that’s oxidized?
While not ideal, flat and vinegary wine is usually still fine for cooking. The off-flavors often dissipate with heating and get masked by other ingredients. Avoid drinking the wine, which concentrates unpleasant flavors. But go ahead and use it for sauces, stews, and other recipes where wine plays a backup role. Just be sure to taste and adjust seasonings since the acidity may increase slightly.
Cooking Wine Substitutes
What if you don’t have any cooking wine on hand? In a pinch, these make decent substitutes:
- Dry white table wine – Avoid oaked Chardonnay which may overpower food. Pick a crisp, acidic white like Sauvignon Blanc.
- Red wine vinegar – Adds tanginess. Use about half the vinegar amount that wine is called for.
- Chicken or vegetable broth – Use low-sodium broth and reduce other seasonings to compensate for less acidity.
- Water – For dishes with lots of other flavors, water with lemon juice mimics the acidity.
- Plain white vinegar – Cuts acidity compared to wine, so add a touch more sugar.
In recipes requiring just a splash of wine, like pasta sauces, substitutes work fine. But for dishes really focused on wine flavor, like coq au vin, make the effort to use real cooking wine.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does cooking wine need to be refrigerated after opening?
Yes, keeping an opened bottle of cooking wine refrigerated is highly recommended. The cool temperatures slow down chemical reactions, prevent microbial growth, and help maintain freshness once exposed to air. Store opened wine in the fridge and consume within 4-6 months.
Can you freeze and refreeze cooking wine?
It’s not recommended. Freezing can cause sediments in the wine to become grainy or mealy over time. The texture and flavor will degrade with each thaw cycle. Refrigeration is the best way to preserve opened bottles.
Will spoiled cooking wine make you sick?
Consuming spoiled cooking wine is unlikely to cause food poisoning or illness. However, the off-flavors can negatively impact the taste of a dish. It’s best to err on the side of caution and stick to wine that has been properly stored.
Does cooking wine taste good?
Cooking wines are designed to be very acidic, salty, and bold, which can make them unpleasant to drink on their own. They are formulated specifically to enhance the flavor of recipes, not for direct consumption. Choose a good table wine if you want something enjoyable to sip.
Is there a difference between white and red cooking wine?
Red and white cooking wines differ primarily in their color since the skins of red grapes used during winemaking impart color. White cooking wine utilizes only the juice. Aside from tannins in reds, the shelf life, storage, and uses are generally the same for both types of cooking wine.
An opened bottle of white cooking wine will keep fresh for 4 to 6 months when stored in the refrigerator. Look for changes in color, cloudiness, textures, and smell which indicate spoilage. Transfer unused portions to airtight containers, use wine stoppers, and keep opened bottles refrigerated. While substitutes work in a pinch, cooking wine adds an ideal balance of acidity and flavor. With proper storage and handling, you can keep white cooking wine on hand for whenever inspiration to cook strikes!