Sometimes (but admittedly not that often for most), you run into the issue that you have an open bottle of wine that you just can’t seem to finish.
Sure, you can flip on the TV, fill your glass and go to town on a bottle or two, but your boss may not appreciate you showing up late the next morning with a raging hangover!
What exactly is the problem? Why can’t you just stick the cork back in the bottle and leave it until you’re in the mood for another drink?
The problem is that oxygen and wine are not the best of friends. Small amounts of oxygen during the aging process can actually help red wines evolve, making them more complex and smooth. Too much though, and the wine will start to evolve for the worse, and the flavors will start to fade. Sticking the cork back in the bottle will not stop the process. Once a wine is exposed to oxygen, the process of deterioration begins and closing the bottle again will not stop it. However, putting the cork back in will limit the continued exposure to more oxygen and will slow the process.
If you don’t want to shell out a few dollars for some device to save your bottle, the best method is to put the cork back in the bottle and put it in the refrigerator – white and red. Cooling the wine slows the oxidation process, giving you more time to come back to the bottle. Of course if it’s a red wine, don’t forget to take it out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you want to drink it so it has time to come back up to temperature.
So how long will an open bottle of wine last?
24-36 hours – once opened it will start to go flat. Make sure you invest in a good Champagne stopper.
1 – 4 days. White wine is primarily consumed for the fresh fruit flavors, and these fade quickly once opened. Heavier wines (like oaky Chardonnay) tend to last longer than light-bodied wines such as Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc.
1 – 3 days. Lighter rosés are like light-bodied whites, and the fresh fruit will fade quickly. Some fuller bodied wines will still taste fine after a few days.
Light-Bodied Red Wines
1 – 3 days. Like white and rosé, lighter reds are built around the freshness of fruit, which fades quickly.
Full-Bodied Red Wines
1 – 5 days. Some heavy / full bodied reds – like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah – may improve after being open for a day or two, particularly when they are young and tannic. The oxygen softens the wines and brings out the aromas. After a couple of days the fruit will fade, and oxidation will set in. I also find that European or “Old World” wines go bad quicker than “New World” wines (generally speaking, of course).
Fortified Dessert Wines
7 – 14+ days. The high alcohol and sugar content of these wines acts as a preservative and allows them to withstand oxygen much better than dry wines. Port and Madeira in particular can last for weeks after being opened. Sherry can last for months.