This post may contain affiliate links which means that, if you choose to make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Big parties always result in half-opened wine bottles. I’ve hosted a few and instead of wasting the oxidized wine, I usually shift it to the pantry as a cooking ingredient. However, sometimes, I leave a wine bottle in the fridge for weeks or even months. So, I’ve wondered if that’s safe for cooking or needs to be chunked into the compost bin.
Unopened wine can last for years beyond the expiration date in the fridge. Unopened fine wine can even last for a couple of decades beyond the expiration date in the fridge. For drinking, opened wine lasts for a few days, and for cooking, it can last up to two months if stored properly in the fridge.
As you may have noticed, the answer changes drastically depending on the condition of the wine, how it is stored and what kind of wine you have. Let’s dive deeper and explore those nuances.
Using old wine for cooking
Old wine can be used for a variety of dishes. The color of the wine doesn’t matter. Whether it’s red or white wine, it can be used for a long time. As I’ve mentioned above, the wine can be used for cooking for up to two months after the bottle has been opened. Even if its flavor is ruined and it’s undrinkable, it would still be fit for cooking. However, to keep the wine fit for cooking, a few things need to be done:
- You need to cork the bottle and lay it by the side inside the fridge. That way the cork stays moist and doesn’t allow in more air.
- Even if you intend to use the wine just for cooking, you shouldn’t store the wine in a place where it may be exposed to heat. Keeping it beside the stove can make the wine acidic very quickly and make it unfit for even cooking.
On the other hand, if you plan to drink the wine, you should do it within the first few days after opening the bottle. Sulfur dioxide is added to the wine to preserve it. Once exposed to the air, it gets oxidized and develops a stale taste. However, you can still use the wine to add to stews, for braising meat, and for making pan sauces.
Shelf life of opened wine for drinking
Once a bottle of wine is opened and gets exposed to air, it starts oxidizing, starts turning acidic and as the days go by, it progressively becomes undrinkable. Moreover, how quickly a wine becomes undrinkable depends on the type of wine. Here’s a helpful chart you can use to figure out the drinkability of the wine:
|Type of Wine||Fit for drinking|
|Red Wine||Up to 2 weeks|
|White Wine||Up to 3 days|
|Wine in a box||Up to 12 months|
|Cooking wine||Up to 2 months|
To extend the drinkability of the wine, you need to do the following things:
- Put the cork back in the wine bottle’s neck. If you throw away the cork, substitute it with a wine stopper or improvise with plastic wrap and a rubber band.
- Place the bottle by its side on one of the shelves of the fridge to keep the cork moist and prevent it from shrinking. This step isn’t necessary if you use a wine stopper or plastic wrap with a rubber band.
- Even better if you have a wine-saver vacuum. That way you can extract most of the air in the bottle and store it upright in the fridge.
If you live up north or high up the hills where temperatures are low for most of the year, you may store the wine on a dark and cool shelf. Make sure to keep it away from the sun and keep it away from hot places like the top of a dishwasher, by the stove, or in the car. As long as the opened wine is stored properly, you can cook with it for up to two months or even more.
What happens when the wine is exposed to heat?
Heat kills wine very quickly. When the wine is kept at around 70 degrees for a significant amount of time, it permanently spoils the wine’s flavor. When the wine is kept at over 80 degrees, it is technically being cooked. With enough heat damage, the wine develops a jammy and very sour flavor.
Cooking with old unopened wine
When it comes to unopened wine, it is obviously fit for consumption till the expiration or ‘best-by’ date. However, even after months or years have passed, I have used unopened bottles of wine for cooking. You can even drink properly stored and unopened wine if it doesn’t smell or taste weird. The following chart shows you the shelf life of old unopened wine for cooking:
|Type of wine||Shelf life for cooking|
|Bottled red wine||Up to 3 years past the expiration date|
|Bottled white wine||Up to 2 years past the expiration date|
|Wine in a box||1 year past the expiration date|
|Fine wine||10-20 years past the expiration date|
|Cooking wine||3-5 years past the expiration date|
So, even if you have a very old bottle of wine sitting in the fridge for months, it may be perfect for cooking sauces and braising meat.
Ways to detect when the wine has gone bad
Unopened wine stays fit for cooking even after the expiration date. However, I like to use my senses and check for signs of spoilage before using the wine. Here’s how you can do it:
1. Appearance – Red wine has gone when it develops a brownish hue and the same holds for white wine when it develops a rusty or amber appearance. This happens when the wine has oxidized too much. As a result, there may be a lot of tiny bubbles in the wine.
2. Smell – A wine that has been opened for too long will turn highly acidic and develop a vinegar-like smell. On the other hand, stale wine smells like nuts, burnt marshmallows, or even apple sauce. When unopened wine goes bad, it smells like cabbage, garlic, or burnt rubber.
3. Taste – Pour a little bit of wine into the glass and taste it. If it has a very sour or burnt flavor, it has gone bad.
Will I get sick from old wine?
Wine spoilage is a result of oxidation. That means it turns into vinegar over time. Even if it tastes awful, it is less likely to make you sick. Wine has a lot of alcohol content to prevent that. However, in rare cases, old wine may be spoiled due to microbes, which may cause food poisoning.
Make sure to store wine in the fridge properly and it should be safe for cooking for a couple of months. If you’re not sure about it, check the color, smell, and taste of the wine to figure out if it has gone stale. Either way, you shouldn’t get sick from an old bottle of wine if it hasn’t been infected with harmful microbes from other sources. I hope I was able to answer all your doubts.