The Truth About Expired Wine: Can You Still Drink It?

Informational

A woman blowing the dust off a bottle of wine

Expired wine can be a touchy subject. Some people say it's perfectly fine to drink, while others maintain that expired wine is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.

So what's the truth? Can you drink expired wine without any negative consequences? In most cases, it's perfectly safe to drink expired wine, but there are always exceptions. If you're unsure, it's best to err on the side of caution and throw the wine out.

In this blog post, we'll look at the science behind expired wine and find out once and for all whether or not it's safe to drink!

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How is Wine Actually Made?

Fermenting wine

To understand why wine expires, we first need to look at how it's made. Wine is a fermented drink, which means that yeast is used to convert the sugars in grape juice into alcohol. This process can take weeks or even months, depending on the wine type.

Once the fermentation process is complete, the wine is aged in barrels or bottles. This aging process can also take weeks, months, or even years. During this time, the wine slowly develops its complex flavor profile.

What Happens to Wine When it Expires?

Wine bottles

Wine is a complex beverage made up of many different compounds. Over time, these compounds can change and break down, causing the wine to oxidize. This process can cause the wine to lose its flavor and aroma. In some cases, it can also cause the wine to develop off-flavors or spoil completely.

However, it's important to note that oxidation is a natural process that happens to all wine over time. So, even if you drink an "expired" bottle of wine, it will not hurt you. In fact, many people actually prefer the taste of oxidized wine!

Of course, if you're not a fan of the taste of oxidized wine, you can always try one of the many methods for extending the shelf life of your wine. For example, you can invest in a quality wine fridge or storage system. Or, you can purchase wine preserver products that help slow the oxidation process.

So what happens when wine expires? In short, nothing really happens. The aging process simply stops. The wine will no longer develop any new flavors and will slowly start to lose the flavors it already has.

Is it Safe to Drink Expired Wine?

A man pouring an expired bottle of wine

It's a question that has been asked for centuries and continues to divide opinions today. There is no cut-and-dried answer as to whether or not expired wine is safe to drink. It depends on several factors, including the type of wine, how it was stored, and how long it has expired.

However, most experts agree that drinking expired wine is unlikely to cause serious harm. The vast majority of wines will be perfectly fine to drink even after they've expired. In some cases, the wine might not taste as good as it did when it was first bottled, but it will still be safe to drink.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. If a wine has been stored improperly or is very old, it might not be safe to drink due to bacteria and other microbes that can cause food poisoning. If you're unsure whether a particular wine is safe to drink, it's always best to be cautious and get rid of the bottle.

Health Risks of Consuming Spoiled Wine

Stomach cramps from food poisoning

When it comes to food, expiration dates are regulated by the FDA. But did you know that no laws in the United States regulate expiration dates on wine? That's right - expiration dates on wine are completely voluntary. So, if a winery decides to put an expiration date on its wine, it's purely for marketing purposes.

While the health risks of consuming spoiled wine are relatively low, it's important to be aware of the potential risks. In rare cases, consuming spoiled wine can lead to food poisoning. If you experience these symptoms after drinking expired wine, it's important to seek medical attention immediately.

  • Abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, and gas
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Fever
  • Exhaustion and dizziness due to dehydration

If you've experience vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain after drinking wine, it's likely that the wine was spoiled. These symptoms are the result of consuming acetic acid, which is a natural byproduct of fermentation. Bacteria can convert ethanol into acetic acid when the wine is exposed to oxygen.

How Do You Tell If a Wine Has Gone Bad?

Spoiled red wine

The first thing to keep in mind is that not all wine expires at the same time. Unopened white wine generally has a shorter shelf life (1-2 years) than red wine (2-3 years), and sparkling wines like champagne can last even longer (3-4 years). That being said, some telltale signs can help you determine whether or not a particular bottle of wine has gone bad.

Changed Color and Appearance

One of the most obvious signs is the appearance of the wine. If it has changed color from its original hue, that's a good indicator that it's no longer fresh. And if the wine is no longer clear and has developed a cloudy impression, it's probably time to get rid of it.

For example, red wine may turn brown or orange, while white wine may take on a yellowish tinge.

Off-Putting Aromas

One of the most obvious signs that wine has gone bad is a change in its aroma. If your wine smells unpleasant, acidic, musty, or just significantly different from how it smelled when you first opened it, it's no longer safe to drink.

Tastes Bad

In addition to smelling bad, expired wine can taste vinegary or sour. If you're unsure whether your wine has gone bad, take a small sip and see how it tastes. If your wine tastes flat or otherwise different from how it usually is, it's probably best to pour it down the drain.

Sediment in the Bottle

This can be a normal part of the aging process for some wines, but if you see excessive sediment, it's a sign that the wine has been stored for too long and is no longer at its best. The sediment is actually composed of dead yeast cells and other organic matter and can give the wine an unpleasant taste.

Loose Cork

If you can see that the cork is no longer snug in the neck of the bottle, or if there's any evidence of leakage around the seal, it's a good indication that the wine has gone bad. A lack of airtightness can cause oxidation or bacteria and mold to develop.

Presence of Bubbles

If your bottle of red wine starts to develop a fizzy quality, this suggests that the wine is  beginning to spoil. This indicates that yeasts may still be active in the wine, which can cause it to taste sour.

How Do You Keep the Wine from Expiring?

Storing a wine collection perfectly

Depending on the wine you're talking about, there isn't a one-size-fits-all answer. But following these simple guidelines can help ensure that your wine will taste its best for as long as possible.

Store Away from Sunlight and High Temperatures

Most wine sold commercially has been treated with sulfur dioxide or SO₂. This preservative gas can help to extend the life of wine by preventing the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms. However, even wines treated with SO₂ can eventually go bad if they are not stored properly.

Wine should be stored in a cool, dark place. Ideally, the temperature should be between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit for wines with natural corks. Synthetic corks should be stored at 60 degrees Fahrenheit or less. If the wine is stored at a higher temperature than this, it will age too quickly and may become spoiled.

Conversely, if the wine is stored at a lower temperature, it will not age at all and will remain "stuck" in its current state.

Regulate the Humidity Levels

The second important factor for storing wine is humidity. The ideal relative humidity level for storing wine is between 60% and 70%. If the air is too dry, it can cause the wine to become dehydrated, which can lead to premature aging. On the other hand, if the air is too humid, it can encourage the growth of mold and other microorganisms.

However, it is best to store wine bottles with a natural cork seal in a humid environment. Since natural corks are porous, they dry out and shrink over time, leading to air and bacteria entering the bottle.

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Keep Wine Away from Vibration

In addition to temperature and humidity, wine should be stored in an environment free from vibrations. Vibrations can cause the sediment in the wine to become suspended, which can give the wine a cloudy appearance.

Unexpected movements or loud noises could easily upset the wine's sediments when stored. Its sweetness may be overly increased due to this interaction, while its acidity and aroma may decline.

Pay more attention when choosing an optimum storage location for wines. We recommend placing them on marble or cement-topped tables or surfaces.

Keep Your Wine Away from Air

Oxygen is another enemy of wine. It causes oxidation, which leads to rancidity and off flavors in your wine. If there's no oxygen in your bottle, it will stay fresher longer than if there were air inside it.

Keep the wine bottle sealed when not consumed, including corked bottles that come off easily, like screw caps. This will prevent oxygen from entering or leaving the bottle and spoiling its contents prematurely.

Buy Only What You Need

A reasonable rule of thumb is only to purchase what is necessary for the occasion. For instance, if you're throwing a dinner party, don't buy more than two bottles of wine per guest unless requested.

Use Bottle Stoppers

An attractive bottle stopper for wines

Bottle stoppers, also known as wine stoppers, are essential wine accessories you can find at almost any brick-and-mortar or online retailer. Some more upscale options now have vacuum seals and oxidation-reducing pumps.

If you don't have a good stopper and need a quick DIY fix, cover the wine bottle opening with foil or plastic wrap and secure it firmly with a rubber band. Even though it's not the best course of action, it is far better than doing nothing.

Preserve Wine Bottles Horizontally

This is the most recommended method to keep wine since it prevents the cork from drying. Storing corked wine bottles on their side prevents early aging and infiltration caused by a dry cork.

Put Your Wine in a Wine Fridge

A wine refrigerator or cooler is an excellent choice to protect your wine from various environmental factors. Compared to a standard refrigerator, a wine refrigerator will keep your alcoholic beverage between 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit and at the right humidity level.

A premium wine storage refrigerator will also include a colder option to keep Champagne fresh. Keeping your wine in a different wine cooler will also prevent cross-contamination from strong odors. Foods like onions and garlic can permeate the cork of a wine bottle and impart their flavors to the wine.

Recork an Opened Wine Bottle

Wine can last approximately 3-5 days if you store it properly after opening the bottle. The key to extending its shelf life and maintaining quality is to cork the wine bottle securely.

Simply put wax paper or plastic wrap around the cork’s end and push it down gently back into the bottle. Be careful not to twist the cork. Otherwise, the paper will wrinkle or crack the cork and cause debris to fall into the bottle.

You might need a good wine vacuum pump if the recorking process doesn't work. Using this device, you can achieve an airtight seal of the opened wine bottle by removing air from it.

The Best Places to Store Wine at Home

Wine storage in the kitchen

Wine can be a great addition to any meal or occasion, but only if fresh. Follow these tips, and you'll be sure to keep your wine fresh for longer!

Pantry

If you're planning on drinking your wine within a few months of purchase, then the pantry is probably the best place to store it. The key here is to find a cool and dark spot, as exposure to light and heat can cause the wine to spoil more quickly.

Dresser Drawer

If you don't have a cool, dark spot in your pantry, another option is to store your wine in a dresser drawer. Again, the key here is to keep the wine away from light and heat as much as possible.

A drawer is also a space-saving option for small apartments or condos. Make sure to put the wine bottles in the bottom drawer so your dresser doesn’t topple over.

Kitchen

If you don't have a wine cellar or a dedicated wine storage space in your house, it's better to store your bottles in the kitchen. The temperature and humidity of this room are ideal for storing wines between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The wine might be exposed to sunlight, but only for a brief period.

Closet

If you have a closet that isn't exposed to too much light or heat, this can also be a good spot to store wine. Just be sure the closet doesn't get too cold, as this can cause the wine to spoil.

Also, keep the wine away from other materials like cleaning supplies and perfumes that could harm the corks or ruin the wine if left open for an extended time.

Basement

A basement is another good place for storing wines because it's generally cooler than most other rooms in your house. However, make sure that this area isn't damp or too humid.

Since it is away from the washer and dryer, the basement is the closest you’ll get to an ideal storage environment without building a full temperature-controlled wine cellar. It’s subterranean, so it never gets too hot in the summer. It’s also generally dark, and there’s just enough humidity to moisten the corks in wine bottles.

The Best Wine Preservation Tools

Wine can be an expensive hobby, and no one wants to waste their money on wine that has gone bad. The good news is there are some things you can do to help preserve your wine so it will last longer. Here are some of the best wine preservation tools:

Wine Fridge

Wine bottles in a built-in wine fridge

Wine refrigerators can keep your wine at the perfect temperature and include humidity control and UV protection features, so you can enjoy your alcoholic beverage for months or even years.

The cool temperature helps preserve all kinds of wines, from light-bodied ones like Rieslings and Pinot Grigios to full-bodied reds like Cabernet Sauvignons and Shiraz.

Wine Cooler

A wine cooler is a refrigerated appliance that can store your wine at the ideal temperature. Wine coolers come in different sizes and can be either freestanding or built-in.

Wine Cellar

Wine cellar

If you have the space for it, a wine cellar is the ultimate storage solution for your wine collection. Wine cellars can be custom-built to fit your home, or you can purchase a pre-made unit. Cellars are designed to keep your wine at a consistent temperature and humidity level, which is ideal for long-term storage.

Wine cellars have been around since ancient times and used by different civilizations as their main method of storing wines. And they were especially useful during wars and natural disasters, which destroyed crops and vineyards.

Wine Cabinet

Wine cabinet filled with wine bottles

A wine cabinet is a temperature-controlled storage unit that can keep your wine at the optimal temperature and humidity level. This furniture-style piece can house as small as a few bottles or as large as several hundred.

Wine cabinets also have an airtight seal that keeps out dust and light, making them perfect for storing different wine bottles together in one place.

Wine Rack

Wine rack

A simple way to keep your wine bottles organized and dust-free is to purchase a wine rack. Wine racks come in all shapes and sizes, so you can easily find one that fits your needs. They are also essential for beautifully displaying your wine collection on walls or countertops.

Wine Vacuum Sealer

Some wines are so expensive that they become collector's items. These types of bottles need to be preserved to maintain their value, and one way to do this is through vacuum sealing systems.

A vacuum sealing system is a great way to extend the life of your wine. This process involves placing each bottle inside plastic bags with the air removed, which helps prevent oxidation.

Conclusion

So, can you still drink expired wine? Yes, you can! In fact, many people believe that expired wine can be quite delicious. However, it's important to remember that expired wine's taste will not be the same as fresh wine. If you're looking for a complex, nuanced flavor profile, you may be disappointed with what expired wine offers.

At the end of the day, whether or not you choose to drink expired wine is a personal decision. But always remember to practice caution and look for telltale signs of spoilage that might cause food poisoning.

Did you find this blog post helpful? Let us know in the comments below! And be sure to check back soon for more wine tips and advice. Cheers!

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