How long does wine last without opening?

Wine is a beloved drink that is enjoyed all over the world. However, wine can go bad if not stored properly. A common question many wine drinkers have is “How long does wine last without opening?” The answer depends on a variety of factors.

How Long Does Unopened Wine Last?

In general, quality unopened wine will last for years and even decades if stored properly. Here are some guidelines on how long unopened wine lasts:

  • White wines – 1 to 2 years past the bottled date
  • Red wines – 2 to 3 years past the bottled date
  • Sparkling wines – 3 to 5 years past the bottled date
  • Fortified wines – Over 20 years
  • Vintage wines – 10 years or longer

These timeframes assume proper storage conditions. The most important factors in wine storage are temperature, humidity, light exposure and proper positioning of the bottle. We’ll go over these key factors in detail below.

Proper Storage Conditions

Creating the right environment is crucial to maximize how long wine lasts. Here are the ideal conditions:


Temperature is one of the most important factors when it comes to wine storage. Wine should be stored in a cool, dark place that maintains a constant temperature between 55-60°F. Fluctuating temperatures can speed up the aging process and cause wine to deteriorate faster. A wine refrigerator or a cool basement are great places to store wine.


Keeping the appropriate humidity level eliminates the risk of dried out corks. The ideal humidity range is 50-80%. Investing in a humidifier can help maintain a constant humidity level if storing wine in a drier environment.

Light Exposure

Light, specifically ultraviolet light, can compromise wine over time. Store wine away from any direct light sources, like sunlight or fluorescent light bulbs. A dark closet or cabinet works perfectly.

Bottle Position

Always store bottles on their side. This keeps the cork moist and the wine in contact with it. Vertical storage can dry out the cork, allowing air to seep in and oxidize the wine.

How Other Factors Impact Shelf Life

In addition to storage conditions, other intrinsic and extrinsic factors affect how long wine will last.

Wine Type

The basic composition of wine impacts how long it lasts:

  • Tannins – Found in red wine, tannins are compounds that preserve wine. Wines with more tannins generally last longer.
  • Acidity – Acidity is a preservative that makes wines crisper and taste fresher for longer.
  • Residual Sugar – The amount of unfermented sugar impacts shelf life. Dry wines last longer than sweet wines.
  • Alcohol – Wines with higher alcohol content, like Port, age more slowly.

Winemaking Process

How the wine was produced and bottled affects longevity:

  • Wines aged and fermented in oak have more compounds that allow longer aging.
  • Bottle variation – Some bottles may age better than others within a case.
  • Yeasts – Selected yeasts impact aging capacity based on compounds they produce.
  • Fining and filtration – More intense fining and filtration produces cleaner wines that may not last as long.


The vintage, or year grapes were harvested, can impact quality and aging potential based on that year’s grape growing conditions.

Wine Faults

Wine faults like cork taint and oxidation can severely limit how long wine lasts. Proper storage helps avoid them.

How to Tell if Wine Has Gone Bad

Checking wine for signs of spoilage ensures you don’t drink bad wine. Here’s what to look for:


  • Discoloration – Whites turn brown. Reds turn brick colored.
  • Cloudiness – Wine loses clarity and brilliance.
  • Sediment – Gritty particles form earlier than normal.
  • Leaks – Signs of seepage around cork.


  • Off odors – Smells like nail polish, vinegar or wet cardboard.
  • Oxidized – Sherry-like aroma.
  • cooked – Smells burnt or like stewed vegetables.
  • Microbial faults – Yeasty, moldy or rotten smell.


  • Vinegar – Sharp, unpleasant sourness.
  • Flat – Lacks expected flavor, taste diluted.
  • Oxidized – Sherry-like flavor.
  • Bitter – Bitterness masks fruit flavors.


  • Astringent – Drying, puckering feel.
  • Thin – Watery, lacks body.

Maximizing Opened Wine Life

Once opened, wine is exposed to more oxygen. However, you can extend the shelf life using these tips:

Use a Wine Preserver

Wine preservers remove oxygen from the bottle to stop oxidation. This can extend white wine life 2-4 days and red wine life 5-7 days.

Keep Refrigerated

The cool temperature in the fridge slows down chemical reactions that degrade wine.

Reseal the Bottle

Either with the original cork or a wine bottle stopper. This prevents oxygen from ruining wine.

Consume Quickly

Try to drink lighter wines within 2 days and fuller-bodied reds within 3-5 days.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does wine expire?

Yes, wine does eventually expire and go bad, typically 5-10 years for average wines if not stored properly. Higher quality wines stored optimally can last decades.

Can old wine make you sick?

Old wines are generally not unsafe to drink, but they can take on unappealing odors and flavors. However, wine contaminated with cork taint contains a chemical called TCA that can cause headaches, nausea, and diarrhea if consumed.

Why did my wine go bad quickly?

The most common reasons wine goes bad fast are:

  • Improper storage conditions – Excess light, heat, temperature fluctuations
  • Oxidation from too much air exposure
  • Poor winemaking and bottling
  • Flawed cork

How long can you keep an open bottle of wine before it goes bad?

An opened bottle of wine will start deteriorating within a couple days. Generally, white wines last 2-3 days and reds 3-5 days. Using wine preservers can extend opened wine life by a few more days.

The Bottom Line

When stored properly, unopened bottles of wine can maintain quality for many years. Whites and lighter reds last around 1-2 years on average. Fuller-bodied reds can last 2-3 years or longer. Fortified and vintage wines have even longer shelf lives. Once opened, wine lifespan is shortened to just 2-5 days. Following the storage tips above helps wine last as long as possible!

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