There is a common misconception that all wine improves with age. While there is some truth to this statement it is a bit vague. Most wine has a limited shelf life and the way it is stored is critical. Most average wines will expire and become unpleasant to drink.
We will take a closer look at why wine expires and where on a bottle you can expect to find the expiration date on wine you have picked.
Where do you find the expiration date on a bottle of Wine?
The first thing to note is that you will not always find one. While wine does not last eternally, many bottles do not specify the expiry date. There are many reasons for this that we will delve into shortly.
The short answer is that, if there is one, you will generally find the expiration date on the bottom of the bottle.
What if there is no expiration date?
As stated above, there is often no clear expiration date. In this case, you need to use judgment. Most decent wines will display the vintage or at the least the year they were bottled. This should give you some direction.
On some wines, you will find a “best by” indication. This will guide as to when the wine is best to enjoy before it potentially spoils. Again, this is often found at the bottom of the bottle.
Why do some wines not have an expiration date?
The expiration date largely concerns the quality and type of wine as well as how you store it. There is no definite way to determine the exact expiration date.
A wine that is past its prime is not dangerous but might not be pleasant. It might be somewhat vinegary and bitter.
Red Wine vs. White Wine
All things being the same, red wine will last a lot longer and improve as it matures. The reason for this is that the tannin content in red wine is higher. This comes from the seeds and skins of the grape that are used in red wines but not too often in white varieties.
The tannins help to prevent or slow pro-oxidative enzymes. It is this that causes wine to spoil or oxidate over time. Darker and richer reds contain more tannins and should last longer.
How Long Can You Keep a Red and White Wine?
Again, much depends on the quality, richness, and the way it is stored. While an expiration date is important, quality wine that is stored correctly should last a good few years past this date.
This applies to unopened wines. Expect a good red to last three or more years past this date while white wines are generally good for two years after the date.
This is particularly important with red wine. Top-quality reds can last for many years under the right conditions. The less expensive options that most of us purchase have a limited shelf-life.
Do not try and keep your average red wine for decades as you will be disappointed. A more noble variety may last much longer.
It might require a bit of research and experience to determine the quality wines that can last. If in doubt, enjoy the bottle before it is too late.
How to Store Wine
This is vital to the longevity of the wine. You want to store it at a cool consistent temperature without exposure to light. It should be stored horizontally to keep the cork moist.
These are the basics, but we could do an entire article on the best way to store your wine for ideal results.
This changes everything. Once a bottle has been opened, the expiration date is no longer a concern. The wine has been exposed to oxygen and will start to deteriorate rapidly. It is best consumed within a few days.
Keep the wine in a fridge, stored vertically in this case, and with the original cork. At best you will get a couple of days before the wine spoils.
Will Old Wine Make Me Ill?
Generally, this does not happen. It might not taste great but is unlikely to make you ill.
How to Tell if Wine is Past its Prime
The first thing to check is the smell or odor. An old wine will have a musty smell. You will notice a vinegary or moldy odor. While some wines have a powerful aroma, you should be able to notice the smell of a wine that has expired.
Also, look at the cork. If it is pushed out, this is a good indicator that the wine has been left for too long. This is called corked wine and it will generally mean that the wine is no longer great.
If the wine is fizzy it should be avoided. This means that the fermentation process has started again and it will probably be unpleasant to drink.
The best test is to taste the wine. Even an inexperienced amateur can determine if wine is no longer good to consume.
Expiration Date on Wine – Conclusion
While not all wines have an expiration date, if they do, they are generally found on the bottom side of the bottle. The vintage or sealed dates are also important indicators.
Quality and correct storage are essential to get the best life out of wine, provided you do not drink it before this becomes a concern.