If you have a bottle of unopened wine and you want to know how long it lasts, we are excellently placed to help. As passionate winemakers with half a century of experience, we’re in our element when it comes to wine education.
At Bolney Wine Estate, we are of the firm opinion that you should never let a bottle of wine go to waste if you can help it!
In this simple guide, we’ll take you through each type of wine and how long it lasts unopened. We’ll also tell you how to properly store your wine in order to ensure its longevity so you don’t have to worry about wasting it and missing out on a beautiful glass.
What Affects the Longevity of Wine?
First of all, there are two main factors that affect the longevity of all bottles of wine: their type and their storage conditions.
Red, white and sparkling wines all have different lifespans. Fine wines age like, well, fine wine. A fine wine’s flavour matures because of a complex chemical reaction between sugars, acids and substances called “phenolic compounds”.
“Tannins” are one of these phenolic compounds and are found in the stems, skins and seeds of the grape. Generally, red wines last longer than white wines because they have a higher tannin content.
White wine does have a higher acidity which helps improve its flavour but has a lower amount of tannins. While having a higher acidity in wine can contribute to slowing the chemical interactions that cause a wine’s deterioration, the higher tannin content is what makes all the difference.
A general rule to follow is that, unless you have a bottle of particularly fine wine, most wines are meant to be drunk as close to their bottling as possible.
How Long Does Red Wine Last Unopened?
Typically, unopened bottles of red wine will last 2-3 years past the recommended drinking window. Their high tannin content ensures this long natural preservation. To maximise shelf life, store in a cool dark area away from sunlight.
How Long Do White Wines Last Unopened?
White wines last 1-2 years past the recommended drinking window if unopened. This is less time than red wine due to the lower level of natural preservatives. Don’t refrigerate your white wine until 1-2 days before opening – store in the same way as red wine until then.
How Long Does Unopened Rosé Wine Last?
Unopened rosé wine will last 2-3 years past the recommended drinking window. Again, don’t refrigerate while you’re storing your rosé, only refrigerate once you’re ready to drink it.
How Long Can You Keep Sparkling Wine Unopened?
Sparkling wines have similar longevity to red wines and can generally be enjoyed between 2-3 years past their listed expiry date. A quality bottle of Champagne should last 3-4 years unopened, going up to 10 years the finer the quality. This also includes any bottle of sparkling wine made in the traditional method, like our superb range.
How Long Does Port Wine Last Unopened?
A well-sealed bottle of port wine will have a long shelf life thanks to its fortified alcohol content and a slower oxidisation process. Generally, unopened port wine should last for many years, even decades, if stored in a cool, dark place.
What if There Is No Expiry Date?
Most wine bottles should have an expiry date, which is also referred to as a recommended drinking window. However, if this is not the case, don’t fret.
The best practice in this situation is to check the vintage date. This date, which should be on the label of your wine, is the date the grapes for the wine were harvested. From this date, you can estimate the expiry date with the above guidelines for different types of wine.
The second factor that affects how long unopened wine lasts is its storage conditions. If a wine is not properly stored, it will deteriorate prematurely and you may have a wasted bottle on your hands.
Should You Store Unopened Wine in the Fridge?
The temperature in a standard kitchen refrigerator is too low to store unopened wine. The excessive vibration that comes with fridge storage will also harm your wine. Follow the steps below to ensure proper storage for your unopened bottles.
How to Store Unopened Wine Properly
Storing your wine bottles properly is the best method for slowing the deterioration and keeping it drinkable for longer:
- Horizontal: Corked wines should be stored on their sides to keep the cork moist. This helps to prevent it from drying out and shrinking. If the cork shrinks, it starts to let air in and the oxidisation process that spoils the wine begins. Screw-top wines can be stored upright because there is no danger of air getting into the bottle.
- Light levels: Sunlight accelerates the expiry process of wine, so find a dark space to store your bottles. A wine cellar is wonderful but a cupboard away from heat and light will work well, too.
- Humidity: Cork bottles need a humid environment to prevent the porous cork from drying out, letting in air and bacteria which is harmful to wine.
- Temperature: The ideal storage temperature for wine is cooler than room temperature – but not as cold as your standard refrigerator. Warm temperatures can cause tannins to oxidise your wine and speed up the expiry process.
Does Unopened Wine Go Bad?
Wine is designed to last a long time. The process of fermenting grapes and allowing the alcohol to develop helps to ensure this. The low sugar content of wine means there is less substance for bacteria to feed on. This, combined with the addition of alcohol, creates conditions that make it harder for bacteria to survive. And because fewer bacteria survive, the breakdown and expiry of the wine are slowed.
Tannins also work as a naturable preservative, dissipating over time to allow a rich aroma and flavour to develop. But how do you tell between an aged wine and an expired wine?
How to Tell if Your Unopened Wine Has Gone Bad
If you’ve unearthed a bottle of wine that you forgot about, and you’re not sure of the expiration date or the vintage date, there are some easy ways to tell if your wine has gone bad:
- Odour: A suspicious smell is one of the most obvious ways to tell if your wine has expired. Often the scent will be medicinal or vinegary, unusually nutty, or even smell like burnt rubber. If you open your wine bottle and are hit with any of these scents, it’s time to say goodbye.
- Taste: Take a very small sip of your wine. If there are sharp or sour vinegar notes, a horseradish-like taste or some caramelised flavours, the wine is off. Don’t worry, a few drops on your tongue won’t be enough to harm you.
- Bubbles: If you see small bubbles in your non-sparkling wine, it’s an indication of second fermentation. It means your wine has soured and is not suitable for drinking.
- Change of colour: While colour changes are natural for unopen wines as they age, if you notice a significant change of colour in your wine, it does indicate that chemical changes are happening. If yours is not A fine wine, it shouldn’t change in colour significantly. So, if you notice it has, it’s time to throw it out.
Discover Our Award-Winning English Wine Collection
While a bottle of wine can last for years past its recommended drinking window, we think it’s best enjoyed as close to bottling as possible. It’s always a disappointment to throw out a bottle of wine, but you can avoid this by refreshing your cellar with our award-winning collection of premium red, white, rosé and sparkling English wines.
At Bolney Wine Estate, we have been creating prestige wines at our stunning Sussex Estate since 1972. Just view our curated selection or subscribe and save with our monthly wine subscription to make sure you’ve always got a first-rate stock of your favourites.
And you can fill up on more expert advice in our blog.See our blog