Wine is not the sort of drink you can simply open with impunity. Instead, it is a beverage that requires a great deal of consideration to the storage and shelf life the wine has after being opened. Wine cannot be kept indefinitely, and after a while, it becomes unpotable. Being aware of the limitations of wine’s survival is an essential part of collecting and drinking bottles of wine. Some wines are a little more sensitive than others, however. For example, white wine is especially fragile for collectors to maintain and will require a little more understanding to store appropriately.
We know that wine collectors want the best and that sometimes, it can be challenging to maintain the standard. With this article, we hope to provide some clarity on how long you can keep your white wine after the cork has already been popped.
The Differences Between Red and White Wine
We feel the first thing that should be established is understanding the difference between white and red wines. Aside from the color, many specialized techniques and regulations go into producing different wines to yield one over the other. Red wines and white wines, as you might expect, go through very different processes and require different ingredients to make. These key distinctions make the prolonged storage of red wine and white wine a very different procedure.
To start, we will cover what goes into making red wine. Red wine is made from grapes of a red or even black coloration to serve as the basis for the flavor. While this might seem obvious, the varying types of grapes on the market can easily be confused for one another, and particular red grapes might be more viable than others for wine production. Another detail that distinguishes the grapes used in red wines is that they also use the seeds and skin of the grapes to create the liquid.
Once the grapes have been processed, the wine is stored in oak barrels to undergo the fermentation procedure. The red wine produced also has a high concentration of sugar and tannins and powerful antioxidants. However, you did not come to this article to learn more about red wines. So, let us move on to the wine in question.
The production of white wines is more or less the opposite of red wine production. To start, the grapes used are golden or yellow, and the seeds and skins are not used in wine production. The next significant difference is that white wines are aged in stainless steel vats rather than wooden barrels. The resulting wine also has lower levels of sugar, tannins, and antioxidants when compared to red wines.
With the style of production requiring such levels of distinction in terms of what the wine is aged in, what parts of the grapes are used, and so in, it is not surprising that white wine’s storage and shelf life are particular in comparison. Furthermore, because there are such specific ingredients, white wine might have a very different lifespan when compared to its red cousins and vice-versa. And this knowledge could make all the difference after you have already opened a bottle.
How Long Does Wine Last After Being Opened?
Wine has been known to be kept for years to give it time to mature. However, this form of long-term storage can only realistically be applied to bottles that have never been opened. The winemaking process is an extremely precise endeavor that cannot lend itself to extreme margins of error. Therefore, the process of storing and keeping wine can demand an equally precise level of care. Everything from the location of your wine storage to the temperature of your wine fridge (should you own one) plays a vital role in the longevity of sealed bottles of wine. However, even sealed wine can expire.
White wines, for example, can safely be stored for up to 2 years following their printed expiration date so long as it remains sealed. But the real question lies in how long you can store wine that you have already popped open. Insofar as open bottles of wine are concerned, you will find that the shelf-life is severely shortened in comparison. White wines, and other lighter wines like rosé, can only be effectively stored for around four to five days after being opened.
After this period, the wine will go bad and be rendered undrinkable. You might be wondering how something that could initially last two years suddenly only last less than a week after being opened. The reason is that the very particular ingredients used in the creation of the wine are now being exposed to elements and stimuli that were heavily avoided during the fermentation and storage of the bottle. As soon as you open a bottle of wine, you are exposing it to more oxygen, light, bacteria, and heat than it has ever been exposed to prior.
There are ways to slightly extend the lifespan of opened bottles of wine, like storage in a wine fridge in cooler areas of your home. You will also want to reseal the bottle as tightly as you can manage. However, this will not be enough to return the wine to its original shelf-life. At most, you will likely only extend its lifespan a few more days to a month if you are lucky. The best results will require specialized storage.
While knowing how long your white wine can be stored after opening it is a helpful tool, it might not be enough for you to confirm that your wine has lost its taste. However, there are additional signs you can stay on the lookout for to indicate if your wine is still a viable beverage or not.
Signs of Expired Wine
All wine will have an expiration date printed on the bottle to serve as a warning about when it is no longer viable. Unfortunately, even with proper storage, wine cannot last forever. However, if you are having difficulty determining if the wine you are trying to salvage is no longer any good, there are some signs you can check—one of the most obvious being a change in the wine’s coloration. Generally, a color change is indicative that the wine is no longer potable and is going bad. When it comes to white wine, the color change can be easier to spot than in darker red wines, which already have a rich color.
White wines are meant to be clear and light with virtually no coloration whatsoever. If you notice that your white wine is developing a golden coloration and becoming opaque, it is a sign the wine is turning. At this point, it is safe to write the bottle off and dispose of it rather than risk another sip. A color change is the first sign of excess oxygen in the wine, which accelerates its deterioration. This is the main reason vineyards work to protect the wine from oxygen during the fermentation and storage procedures.
Another great way to examine your wine for impurities is a scent test. By smelling your wine, you can determine its state by checking if it has retained its purity or if something is changing from when you first opened it. For example, if the wine has been opened and left out in the open and has turned, then you will note that the scent has become much sharper and more closely resembles the smell of vinegar rather than wine. However, turning only applies to wine that is left out of storage.
If the wine has been appropriately stored after being opened, it is no safer from expiring in the long run. However, the change in scent will be from it going stale rather than turning. A turned wine will bear a nutty scent that might resemble a toasted marshmallow or applesauce. It is worth noting that even sealed wine can go bad if left in storage for too long. You can tell the wine has expired if, when you open it, it has a scent reminiscent of burnt rubber or garlic.
For the particularly bold, there is a “break glass in case of emergency” method for verifying the status of your wine. A taste test is a risky option since you will likely regret it if the wine has gone bad. However, if you have exhausted the other options and are still on the fence, it could serve as a viable option.
Besides, ingesting a small amount of sour wine will not cause any lasting damage. If you taste the wine and it has a sharp sour flavor, it has gone bad. That said, you want to minimize the risk of consuming bad wine. Potential health issues can arise from the overconsumption of turned or expired wine.
The Risks of Drinking Bad Wine
One of the chief causes of bad wine is unchecked bacterial growth in the bottle after being opened. Bacteria is something winemakers strive to combat during the fermentation process, and several naturally occurring preservatives in the wine help protect it further. However, a bottle that has been opened is much more vulnerable. So, when the wine begins to go bad, bacteria have a much easier time infesting the drink and bringing with them an even larger concern.
Drinking bacteria-infested wine runs a small risk of exposing you to foodborne pathogens like E. coli or B. cereus. However, this risk is remarkably low, so it should not be too much of a concern. However, the possibility is a very real one. Studies have revealed that bacteria and foodborne pathogens’ ability to survive in wine allows them to remain for several weeks at maximum.
Aside from these bacterial infections, the most significant risk the consumption of expired white wine holds for you is food poisoning. While not quite as life-threatening or debilitating, it can still be a severely unpleasant experience. Symptoms of food poisoning include abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, fever, and diarrhea. So, if your wine has turned or gone stale, you would be wise to dispose of it rather than risk drinking it.
We Decant Make This Stuff Up
White wine, like all wine, is subject to several factors that make it a beverage highly sensitive to its environment. The production of wine is an intensive process that requires a great deal of care and focus to ensure a quality product. While some wines might be able to last for decades unopened and left in a cellar, others do not enjoy such longevity.
All bets are off when a wine is opened, and its days are numbered. This is part of why wine is best enjoyed in the company of friends and family to ensure not a drop goes to waste. We understand that you would be loathe to dispose of a white wine that you have not finished, but its short shelf life makes long-term storage nearly impossible.
Wine is more than just a drink to some. To others, it is a unifier for those of us who can appreciate the finer things in life. Every bottle brings a story, every glass a laugh, and every sip a smile. Wine can bond us together and allow us to connect. We at the Wine Diarist believe fully in the power a glass of wine has to unify us and have many a tale to tell and advice about the drink.
If you are curious about how to tend to your collection of wine, feel free to browse our collection of articles on our website. If, by chance, you have a question not answered in our collection of articles, please feel free to leave a comment down below and let us know what we can do to help. The world of wine has an abundance of information, so much so, in fact, that we may have missed what you were looking for. We would be more than happy to help you out by answering any of those potential questions that you may have. As always, we toast to your health, happiness, and heartiness. Here’s to you!