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What Happens When You Drink Bad Wine? The Risks of Spoiled Wine

Ashe Samuels
Last Updated: April 20th, 2023

Bad wine happens to all of us. …Well, not all. Just those who drink wine.

Maybe you left a bottle in the fridge for too long and, when you poured a glass, were horrified by the putrid result. Perhaps you tried a bottle that hasn’t gotten many reviews…and found out why. Bad wine comes in many forms, and unfortunately, it’s only a matter of time until you taste it for yourself.

What happens when you drink bad wine? The simple answer is that drinking a small amount of spoiled wine is unlikely to have any dire consequences. Essentially, the wine turns into vinegar and the biggest shock will be the unpleasant taste.

That does not mean you should drink a large amount of spoiled wine or that someone unfamiliar with wine will be able to instantly recognize when the wine has gone bad. So to help you better understand as well as prevent the spoilage of wine, we have outlined all you need to know below.

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What Happens When You Drink Bad Wine? FAQ

1. Is Bad Wine Dangerous?

This is a valid question but as it stands, bad wine simply tastes bad. Nothing more.

It’s still recommended you toss it so you can enjoy your meal without scrunching your face. Livestrong has a brisk piece on the delicate balance white wine needs to keep from transforming into vinegar…with the interesting development that white wine vinegar can actually kill some of the bacteria that lead to food poisoning.

More specifically, salmonella and e.coli. So, what happens if you drink bad wine? Not much aside from a gross flavor and the potential reduction of a few harmful bacteria.

While you could store that bad white wine to tackle a stomach ache, play it safe. I’d rather leave any foodborne illnesses to a medical professional, not a riesling.

2. What About Cheap Wine?

Quality wine, no matter how many awards a winery gets, will still boil down to an individual’s personal tastes. That said, I’ve had wine that was made as cheaply and quickly as possible…and it didn’t taste great.

What makes wine taste as complex as it does? The factors that give wine its signature intricacy are the soil the grapes are grown in (also known as terroir), the type of barrels they’re aged in, and how well they’re preserved.

Cheap wine often doesn’t go through an aging process and lacks some of the finer quality grapes, mixing in fruit that’s gone bad or hasn’t developed properly.

There’s bad wine…and then there’s bad wine. Check out my Best Twelve Red Wine Brands or Best Twelve White Wine Brands if you need suggestions.

3. What Makes Wine Go Bad?

 Wine is a sensitive creation that relies on a meticulous balance. It stands to reason a lot can make wine go bad, too.

Brought to you by the process that causes your apples to turn brown once sliced, the most common contributor to bad wine is oxidation. Also known as exposure to air and light, this detail will completely change the way your wine feels, tastes, and looks.

Wine Country has a piece on how to properly store your wine once it’s opened, which includes storing it away from light and keeping it in a cool environment. Fun fact! Wine storage isn’t just there to look neat, but is designed to keep the cork wet so it doesn’t create oxygen.

A little goes a long way. Store your wine carefully to get the most bang for your buck.

 4. How Long Should I Keep Wine In My Fridge?

Unless you’re sharing with friends, finishing an entire wine bottle on time can be a tall order. Not so much nowadays, but…it still stands.

A week is a common rule-of-thumb, but how much truth does it hold? The truth is, as they often say, somewhere in the middle. Wine Folly goes into the scientific details behind wine storage once the cork is popped, supporting three to seven days depending on the type.

It’s also worth noting what you like to drink. Do you prefer the smooth touch of room temperature wine or does a cold kick bring out the flavor?

I currently have a bottle of rosé that’s got two days or so. Time to finish it up.

5. Do Some Wines Go Bad Faster Than Others?

With so much subtlety in wine, it stands to reason you shouldn’t treat every varietal with the same kind of care.

The same piece from Wine Folly dives into how each wine type needs a different touch. Sparkling wine runs dry the fastest and should be finished in three days.

Red wine has a little more wiggle room at three to five days, whereas white wines range from five to seven. If you’ve decided to dig into some boxed wine, however, you can keep it for up to a month.

Double-check your wine type before storage and consider punching in a reminder in your phone calendar.

For a good guide on how long different wine types last check out this short video guide from The Perfect Pour YouTube Channel.

6. What Does Bad Wine Look Like?

 Wine is a sensory experience. There’s more than enough time to figure out if something’s a little…off about your purchase.

This Food And Wine repost of Vinepair’s breakdown takes a look at the three most notable changes in wine that’s gone south. White wine should be clear and sparkling, while rosé should have a delightfully rosy blush.

Light-colored wine that’s gone unusually dark, however, or clear wine that has a cloudy look? Err on the side of caution and throw it out.

Take a second and breathe…literally. Sniff and study your wine first so you can save yourself a bad memory.

7. What Does Bad Wine Smell Like?

What’s worse than wine that lacks a luscious hue? Wine that smells less like a robust cherry and more like a soggy towel.

Following up on the previous piece, bad wine has nearly as many scents as good wine. White wine that’s been given too much time to oxidize can take on a vinegar-like scent.

Red wine that’s gotten rotten can take on a mildew-like scent. Basically? Anything rancid, sour, or rotten should be dumped.

What happens when you drink bad wine? Ideally, the smell should turn you off before you even sip.

8. What Does Bad Wine Feel Like?

Mouthfeel is a term you become familiar with getting into wine or coffee. It refers to the texture of a drink: smooth, silky, and creamy are just a few you can encounter.

Each type of wine comes with a texture all its own (and then some). I’ve had white wines that were dry, leaving a sensation as if my tongue has actually dried out. I’ve drank rosé with a juicy pop and pinot noir with a creamy feel.

Swirl, sniff, look. Don’t wait until you taste before finding out.

Taking good care of your wine becomes easier with practice. You learn to immediately store it on its side when you get home (especially if you shop at the grocery store when bottles are stored upright). You finish the red in five days, but the sparkling in three. Sure enough, it becomes a habit.

If you know a friend or co-worker getting into wine and wanting a good experience, share this list. In the meantime: when’s the last time you drank bad wine?

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About The Author

Ashe Samuels

Ashe is a B2B copywriter, digital marketer, and graphic designer for the coffee, tea, and alcohol niches. Here I share industry news, review products, and analyze social trends.

Just so you know, if you click on a product on and decide to buy it, we may earn a small commission.

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