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How Long Can a Bottle of Wine Stay Open?

There is a straight to-the point answer often given – 3 to 5 days (mostly when you do a quick search on Google) but here at The Wine Story we say there is definitely more to it. Once you open that bottle, you are always left wondering how long you can keep it open before it has passed its prime. As a basic rule of thumb, a recommended way to keep wine after you’ve opened it is to remember to recork it and put it in the fridge. By doing this, you limit the wine’s exposure to oxygen, heat, and light. 

Here is a practical guide to know when and how long the precious drink can stay in the open.

White Wine

A full-body wine will oxidise, but slowly, if it has undergone a quality wine-making process. Moreover, a bottle of Chardonnay, Riesling, Sémillon or Sauvignon Blanc is expected to last comfortably 2 -3 days in a half-full bottle. The mass-produced and less sophisticated whites and rosés are probably best enjoyed within two days.

Red Wine

Red wine will comfortably be in good shape for 3 -4 days. The more robust the red wine the more tannin it has to protect itself against oxygen. Lighter bodied reds such as Burgundy and other Pinot Noir or Sangiovese based wines, lose their structure far more quickly than the likes of bold Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Consume these types of wine within 2 days. 

Fortified wines

The higher alcohol content in both Sherry and Port make these types of wine the toughest to crack. When a wine is ‘fortified’, a distilled spirit (usually brandy) is added to it. The shelf life of an opened bottle is 3-4 weeks although you shall enjoy the best of its flavours and aromas within a week. After that, they will suffer from the normal process of oxidation, common to all wines. Keeping the opened bottle lightly chilled and using a Vacu-Vin or similar will prolong the quality.

A bottle of Quevedo Vintage Port from specialist merchant Vintage Port Shop in Portugal. It can be left open for about two weeks when recorded and chilled.

Sparkling Wines

The carbon dioxide that causes the fizz and adds to its character also helps preserve the wine but once opened, its shelf life is one to 2 days max. It will surely go flat and lose the fine bubbles but it will still be drinkable. Try and keep the bottle absolutely closed because every time you open it, you lose its internal bottled pressure.

Rosé & Lighter White Wines

Lovers of wines that are light, zesty and full of life with sharp fruit and mineral notes know that they are best enjoyed when freshly opened. However, a bottle of these types of wine have a relatively longer shelf life of between 5-7 days due to limited tannins present in them. Within a couple of days, you will notice a change of colour and character to the wine, especially a slight orange ring-like colouration in the bottle. After the week, its best not to carry on with the drinking spree.

Other DIY ways to keep it longer

For all opened bottles of wine, you can definitely do some damage control to prolong their taste and character by using certain wine accessories. For example, using a bottle stopper will help slow down the oxidation and degradation of wine once the bottle has been opened. Another measure to take can be re-corking and refrigerating it all the while reducing its exposure to oxygen, heat and light.

A bottle stopper used to preserve still wines
A Champagne bottle stopper. It can also be used for other sparkling wines such as Rosé.

Remember…

The ultimate deciding factor is quality. The better the wine, the longer it will stay (somewhat) fresh in an open bottle. That is irrespective of the techniques used to protect the wine, be it aeration or adding a bottle stopper. It’s not actually what’s in that space above the wine that makes the difference, but what is absorbed into the wine at the moment of opening.

The very essence of wine drinking is a joyfully experience. No matter which wine you have on the table, it should be drunk preferably with friends over a good meal, or accompanied by deep rambling conversations. You can have it indoors or on cold evenings, outside or on sunny afternoons. Enjoy it young and fresh, aged and complex…let us try avoid the unfinished bottle. Furthermore, the thought of how long you need keep an open bottle of wine fresh is tasking to the brain so enjoy the full bottle of wine!

If you liked this article, you may enjoy reading this one as well: Brandy – Wine’s old Uncle

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