Have you had a bottle of wine sitting in your wine rack for years, but you can’t seem to bring yourself to drink it until a special occasion? You may want to reconsider that thought.
We all know that aging is an important part of the wine making process, but does leaving a bottle of wine on a wine rack in your home, really enhance the flavor or are you actually degrading that expensive bottle of wine?
Most wine that people purchase is not meant to be aged. Bottles that you find at the store for around $30 and under are typically meant to be opened and drank, as opposed to being collected and stored.
Now this doesn’t mean that you have to drink it immediately, but we wouldn’t recommend leaving it on a shelf for longer than five years. After five years the wine can begin to break down and deteriorate, losing some of the flavor you may be expecting when you first open the bottle.
That being said, let’s take a deeper look at to what can cause a wine to go bad, and what you can do to preserve the flavor as best as possible.
Does Wine Go Bad?
The short answer to this is yes, wine can go bad. Why it goes bad is another story though.
There are a few different reasons why your wine might go bad. If the bottle was opened and left sitting out, it’s probably going to go bad after a while.
The main reason for this is oxidation. When a bottle of wine is sealed, oxygen can’t get into the wine, but once it’s opened the oxygen rushes into the bottle causing sulfur dioxide (a preservative used in almost all wines) to dissolve. When this preservative disappears, there’s nothing protecting the wine from further oxidation and after a few days you’ll be left with poor tasting/smelling wine.
You can try to reseal a wine bottle to help it last longer, and they even make tools that can help remove the air from already opened wine bottles, but that will only slow down the process. Eventually that wine is going to go bad if it’s not drank.
Thankfully, most people buy and open a bottle of wine with the intention of drinking it, so in most cases you’re not going to let a bottle of wine go to waste… especially a nice expensive bottle.
Can Age Cause Wine to Go Bad?
We know that oxygen can cause a bottle of wine to go bad, but what about leaving a bottle of wine on the shelf for years? Will aging certain wines cause them to go bad?
As we mentioned above, most cheaper wine, $30 and under, should be bought with the intention of opening and drinking. You’re not going to get better flavor out of those wines by aging it in a wine cellar. White wines can last up to three years on the shelf and red wines around five, but most modern wines should be bought to be opened.
Most modern day wines are typically not meant to be aged and will give you the best flavor right out of the bottle. If the wine maker felt they could get better flavor out of the wine by aging it longer, they would have done so themselves.
Some of the more expensive wines can be aged to a point, but it’s important to understand what wines will improve with age and which will not. It’s not simply red vs. white in this case, it’s more about the characteristics of the wine.
Higher sugar content, lower alcohol levels, and more acidic wines typically do better when bottle aged than others. This is because the higher concentrations of those elements help protect the wine from going bad.
It’s also important to note that most wines are already aged by the winemaker. They age their wines in barrels to help enhance the flavor and complete the winemaking process. This is totally different than aging it in the bottle in your home, so keep that in mind when discussing wine age.
When it comes to aging wine, outside of ensuring the bottle is properly sealed, the most important thing you can do is store the wine correctly.
How to Properly Store Wine
If you’re considering purchasing wine with the intent of storing it for a special occasion, or collecting it in your wine cellar, it’s important that you’re storing the bottles correctly or you may be disappointed when you go to open it.
The most important thing you want to do is make sure that your wine is stored in a cool, dark, environment. A temperature between 45 – 65 degrees is ideal, with a humidity level of around 70 percent to help prevent the drying of the corks. Sunlight can damage the wine as well so it’s important that the bottles remain out of direct sunlight.
If your wine has a cork, you’ll want to make sure that you store the bottle on its side instead of upright. By storing the wine on its side you’re keeping the cork moist which will help it from drying out. A dried out cork can lead to air getting into the bottle and causing oxidation.
Once you set your bottle of wine on the wine rack, avoid picking it up until you’re ready to drink it. Vibrations to the bottle can cause damage to the wine and affect the flavor. This is also the reason why you shouldn’t store wine in the fridge until you’re ready to drink it. While the fridge is running it’s constantly vibrating which can cause damage to the wine over time.
Keep Your Wine Tasting Its Best
In the end, wine is meant to be drank and enjoyed. Most modern wines do not need to be bottle aged in your wine cellar to enhance the flavor. Modern winemakers expect you to drink the bottle once it’s purchased, and that is the flavor profile they strive to perfect.
If you do want to save your wine for a later date, then be sure that you’re storing it properly. By storing your wine in the right environment, you can prevent oxidation from occurring within the bottle. This oxidation is what can cause your wine to go bad. It’s also important to remember that most modern wine will start to go bad after a few years, so be sure to drink those bottles and don’t let them go to waste.