How to Store Wine So It Lasts as Long as Possible
"In my opinion, there are few things worse than letting a delicious bottle of wine go to waste," says Christopher Hoel, sommelier and founder of Harper's Club and Luckysomm, and expert wine curator for Wine Insiders and Martha Stewart Wine Co. And we couldn't agree more.
The good news? There are easy tips and tricks to extend the life of your favorite wines, starting with knowing why wine goes bad in the first place. Wine requires a delicate balance of oxygen exposure. Oxygen is crucial in the fermenting process and can boost flavors and aromas of a wine once opened, but too much exposure will turn your wine into vinegar (this process is how we make red wine and white wine vinegars).
"Therefore, almost every wine preservation tip you'll find is based on minimizing your wine's exposure to oxygen," Hoel explains. However, oxygen isn't the only factor when it comes to maintaining a wine's integrity—light and temperature play a part, too, and storage tips will vary depending on if your bottle of wine has been opened yet. For example, you should always refrigerate both red and white wines after they are opened, but this method only works for open bottles. The fridge is not recommended for long-term wine storage of unopened bottles.
From timeline to temperature, here's everything you need to know about how to store wine at home to keep it fresh for as long as possible.
How Long Does Wine Last?
Both red and white wines will stay good for up to one year unopened, while champagne and sparkling wine lasts about six months in the pantry. And how long is a bottle of wine good for after opening? The acid in white wines, such as rieslings and sauvignon blancs, helps keep them fresh after opening for about three days, whereas most reds should be finished in a day or two, says Andrea Robinson, a master sommelier and the author of Great Wine Made Simple. Champagne and sparkling wine on the other hand will only last one day in the fridge.
To make opened wine last closer to a week, remove as much air as you can with a device like the Rabbit vacuum pump, moistening the stopper first for the tightest seal, advises Michael Aaron, chairman of Sherry-Lehmann Wines & Spirits in New York City.
"You can easily get a quality vacuum pump for $10 to $20 and, while not perfect, it can add a few days to the life of your wine," explains Hoel. Vacu Vin's Wine Saver Pump is our favorite option.
How to Store Unopened Wine
How to Store Opened Wine
How to Tell If Wine Has Gone Bad
According to Hoel, oxidation will begin to change a wine's color and taste, but that doesn't always mean your wine has gone bad. "In fact, this process is the reason we decant wines before drinking, as the flavors are often enhanced by oxygen. However, there is a point that it stops enhancing the wine, and starts turning it into vinegar," he explains.
First, check the color. Reds will begin to darken to brown and brick tones, while white wines will often deepen and become more yellow. Then, give it a test (don't worry—bad wine won't hurt you). For red wines that have gone "off," you'll find that the flavors and aromas will flatten, replacing fresh flavors with nutty, sherry-like notes. Whites will start to develop a sour, vinegary taste.
"This process is also useful for checking the integrity of your wine when dining out," explains Hoel. "If you order wine by the glass at a restaurant, remember to take notice of the color and the flavor profile." Wines served by the glass can come from bottles that were opened earlier that day and can start exhibiting signs of over-oxygenation, even in just a few hours. "If you discover the wine you ordered in a restaurant has gone 'off,' it's well within your rights to ask for a fresh glass," he adds.
What to Do With Oxidized Wine
If you've stored your wine correctly—in a sealed bottle in the refrigerator—but the taste or color is just a little off, a slightly oxidized wine can still be used in the kitchen. "I find they work best in recipes with long cook times, like stews, sauces, or marinades, which allow the alcohol to cook off and the flavors to meld seamlessly," Hoel says.
If you're at the point of no return, consider turning your leftover wine into vinegar. "All you need is raw vinegar, a clean jar, an old bottle of wine, and voila," says Hoel. "Simply combine all of those ingredients and store the concoction in your pantry and, in about a month, you'll have delicious vinegar to cook with. Plus, you can keep contributing your leftover wine to the container to continue making vinegar."