Food & Wine

Why Does Wine Go Bad and What Can You Do to Keep it Fresh

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Ever wanted just a glass or two of wine and thus couldn’t justify opening the whole bottle? With work events or travel it might be several days before you’re ready to finish it at which point it may have spoiled.

Why does wine go bad?

Oxidation. Once air comes into contact with the wine, it activates bacteria naturally found in grapes (not as gross as it sounds) which changes the taste, eventually to something like vinegar.  (More technical details here.) Young wines often benefit from some decanting — pouring into another container to increase exposure to air–which can help release more sophisticated flavors you would get if the bottle had aged a bottle a few more years. But eventually with all wines, you can get too much air and it spoils.

Epcot wine tasting, not quite what we were hoping for.

How quickly wine goes bad depends several factors: the quality of the wine, the sugar content, and how you store it. A well made wine from good vines can last several days longer sitting out, dessert wines high in sugar can last up to a month after opening if stored correctly.

How to Keep Wine Fresh Longer

The first step is to put a cork in it, limiting the wine’s contact with air. But to make it last longer than a day you’ll need to go further.

There are alot of gadgets out there that purport to keep your wine fresh, some of them actually work. I actually use none of them, yet. I’ve found two easy, free ways to extend the life of my wine by at least a few days.

  • Refrigerate everything. That’s right, not just the whites, do the reds too. This slows down the growth of the bacteria, and thus the change in taste. You’ll want to let the red warm up a little before you drink it of course, but otherwise this is a huge help in preserving unfinished wine.
  • Pour the remainder into an empty half bottle. This only works once you’re down to a half bottle or less, but it accomplishes the same effect as the wine pumps — limiting the amount of air in contact with the wine. From half a bottle of air to only a little space.

glen manor vineyards half bottle full

Gadgets to Keep Wine Fresh

Alot of gadegets claim to help keep wine fresher, but it’s unclear all of them deliver more than you get by simply recorking the wine and sticking it in the fridge. So do your research prior to buying.

  • Wine Pump — they serve as a stopper and allow you to pump out the excess air. Read the reviews carefully though, I made the mistake of defaulting to the Vacu Vin and didn’t work.
  • Nitrogen — you spray nitrogen and other inert gasses into the open bottle before corking and and it forces out the air.
  • Kuvee Wine Bottle — this is a new product that apparently pours one glass at a time, protecting the remaining contents from contact with air. Much like those fun enomatic devices at my favorite wine bars. It’s pricey at $199, but if you like the option to enjoy one glass a night of a $50+ bottle without sacrificing quality, this could be a brilliant solution.


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