Your questions: How to keep wine fresh after opening

Content: Why wine turns bad, how to tell wine has gone bad and 5 ways to keep wine fresh.

A Person in an Apron Opening a Bottle of Wine. Article - How to keep wine fresh after opening

Why does wine go bad?

If you cut an apple or avocado, leave it on the side and come back to it a day later, it will have turned brown. That happens because oxygen reacts with an enzyme in the fruit, polyphenol oxidase if you want to get scientific, resulting in the production of melanin - which you might be more used to hearing about when referring to skin/hair/eye colour. This process is called enzymatic browning and alongside turning food brown, as you will know if you've ever then eaten some, also alters taste.

Ripe and Delicious Avocado Fruit Cut in Halves with Big Stone 

When it comes to wine, opening a bottle and exposing it to oxygen triggers a similar sort of reaction, which is very helpfully called oxidation. This oxidation causes the alcohol in the wine to convert into acetaldehyde before turning into vinegar.

Now, unlike the apple or avocado, when it comes to wine a little bit of oxygen can actually be a good thing. For wines which are made to age, the cork allows in tiny teeny amounts of oxygen in over time (years), which results in wanted changes. These include colour; so red wines become more tawny and white wines more golden, but more importantly change the flavour profile. If you've ever tasted an old Bordeaux say, you will know that those black fruit flavours which are so prevalent when it's young have taken a back seat and more savoury, matured flavours of cedar, earth and truffle take hold.

However, with the everyday wines we buy from the supermarket this oxygenation isn't preferable. This is because they are made specifically for drinking immediately (that is to say within a year of purchase), and so leaving them to age will only result in the loss of all that makes it delicious with nothing to gain.

Once any bottle is then opened and some poured out, the amount of oxygen which is now in contact with the wine is huge - and so oxidization happens rapidly, ultimately leading to the death of the wine.

How long will open wine last normally?

Below are some rough estimates on how long each style of wine will last once open, based on the assumption that it is kept in a cool, dark place with the cork/a stopper in.

White wine - up to a week for the lighter styles i.e. Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc. Wines that have been oaked, such as some Chardonnay ,will not last as long (3-5 days) as they have already been exposed to oxygen in production.

Rose wine - 5-7 days.

Red wine - 3-5ish days.

Sparkling wine - up to 3 days

Fortified wine - up to 3 months depending on style. For example vintage port should be drunk quickly (the same day is preferable), tawny port will still be good within 6 weeks(ish) and a young ruby port is the most resistant with the ability to last up to 3 months.

How can you tell if wine has gone bad?

Of course the timings above are just rough estimates, and like any consumable you should trust your own judgement. Give it the old fashioned sniff test and if it smells like vinegar or sherry (assuming it isn't sherry of course) then it's probably a gonna. If you can't quite tell after smelling, then don't be afraid to give it a little taste. If it has become a little sour or tangy then that's a sign that it's starting to turn and it's sadly time to pour it down the drain.

Close-Up Photo of Person Opening a Champagne Bottle.
Keep wine fresh after opening

How to keep wine fresh after opening

As someone who is lucky enough to sample wines for a living, I often end up in the position of having multiple bottles open at home at any one time, and with the good ones I like to keep them to enjoy later on. Here then are my tried and tested solutions.

1.Put it in the fridge. I do this with all my open wines regardless of using any other techniques. It works by slowing down those enzymes and therefore the rate oxidization. Just remember to take red wine out of the fridge for a little wine before drinking, otherwise it will be too cold to enjoy properly.

2. Buy a wine stopper for sparkling wine. Such a simple devise but it works by keeping all those bubbles in the bottle.

2.Buy a wine saver. This acts like a little vacuum, sucking out the air from the bottle and can preserve wine for up to 10 days. I love mine - I have tons!

3. Decant it into a small container. This reduces the empty space in the bottle and therefore the amount of oxygen the wine is in contact with. Do note however that when pouring the wine into the new container, the wine is subject to oxygen, so try to be gentle with this part - perhaps use a funnel.

4. Buy a coravin. This is the most expensive option, but is worth it if you are a serious wine buyer or if you are looking for a gift for one. There are several options, but essentially they all work by allowing you to pour wine through a needle which pierces the cork with no need for removal. The air pocket left behind is then filled with an inert gas, pushing out the oxygen. It's a fascinating contraption which can allow a wine to last for years!

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