This week’s question via email from Judy from San Diego , CA
How long can I keep a wine open for? Is it different for a red wine and a white wine?
This is a common question I always get asked. People want to know how long they can keep a wine open for and how to determine if a wine can or should be aged. In this post I’ll be covering aging potential of wines and the fridge or kitchen counter life of your wine after popping the cork (or screw cap).
First off, I recommend only keeping a red wine for up to 3-5 days after it has been opened. White wine is more delicate and can’t withstand as much exposure to oxygen as reds do, so keep your whites for up to 3 days after opening. Ideally it’s best to consume wine within the first two days but I know it’s not always possible to defeat this “difficult” challenge. Pay attention to how the wine evolves each day and use your own judgment; when you think the wine has taken a turn south and isn’t tasting even close to how it did on day one, then stop. You cannot get sick from drinking a wine that’s been open for too long, but it will eventually turn into vinegar — and no one wants to sip on that.
As for the aging potential of a wine, if a wine has high acid, high tannins, and low alcohol it’s a wine that can be aged and will age well. These three components preserve the wine for a long time and change as the wine ages. The wine you once considered too tannic for your taste will be much more mellow ten-plus years down the road. Same goes for acid: a wine that once had super-high acid will become less acidic over time. Some of the oldest wines in the world from the great regions like Bourdeaux and Burgundy have lower-than-average alcohol (less than 13.5%). The lower the alcohol, the longer the wine will last.
Generally, most wines today are made for immediate consumption. Up to 90 percent of all wine purchased in the U.S. is consumed within 24 hours. It’s clear that we don’t know how to hold onto things or have the patience to wait, and wine companies know this. Most New World wines are made to be consumed within two to four years. Old World wines from Europe typically have the right amount of acid, tannin, and alcohol that allow them to age beautifully.
This isn’t to say that you can’t find wines made in the U.S. that will age well, but be sure to evaluate the structure of the wine. Many wineries offer vertical tastings — they showcase the same wine over several vintages. This can give you an idea of how their newest releases will evolve with time.