How Long Does Opened Wine Last?

My wife likes white wine. Specifically: buttery, oaky Chardonnays. And I like them too. Just not every day. So we usually have two bottles of wine with dinner. That is not to say that we drink two bottles with dinner. As much as I would like to drink a bottle of wine, my head and waistline can’t tolerate it. Oh, sure, occasionally with dinner guests we will drink lots of wine, but that is usually with a long meal, on a weekend. A more typical meal includes a glass or two of wine. And that is the challenge. Many every-day reds are tough enough to handle 24-48 hours before they begin to decay noticeably. But many whites, in particular Chardonnays, are much more fragile.

I have no particular insight into what makes one Chardonnay last for three days, and what makes another taste like cat piss after one day. I’m just complaining about it. The flavors, textures and aromas of wine are so complex and subtle that small, seemingly inconsequential changes have large effects on the  experience. My off-the-cuff explanation would be that delicate wines will break down more quickly than the high-alcohol monsters that many wineries are making today. But I would be wrong. Some of the more delicate wines are also the longest lived (after opening). And those wines that taste like someone dropped a dollop of butter and a caramel bar into a pineapple martini? They can turn into crap after just a few hours. 

So you have discovered my secret. I don’t know everything. But it sure is fun trying to figure it all out!

2 Replies to “How Long Does Opened Wine Last?”

  1. It’s all about acidity!!!!! 😛

    In seriousness, I’d guess that acidity and tannins both play rolls in preserving open bottles – similar to long-term aging. Have you tried a vacu-vin? My modus operandi is to pour half the bottle into a 375 ml immediately after opening, then vacu-vin the 375. Refrigeration also helps, but then you have to warm it up when you want to drink it.

  2. I don’t like the vacu-vin idea because while the idea of evacuating some air makes some sense, the vacuum also pulls some volatile components out of the wine. Those volatile flavors may also disappear into the air in the normally recorked bottle, but at least it isn’t happening under vacuum. I would rather just cork it and keep it as cool as is appropriate. I’ll refrigerate whites, and put reds back into the cellar at 56 degrees.

    I am not sure about how much of a roll either acid or tannin will have on opened bottles. The amount of oxygen is huge compared to during aging; other reactions may very well be occurring.
    It’s an interesting question.

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