Does unopened wine go bad?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Does unopened wine go bad?” We will also discuss the shelf life of unopened wines, signs that your wine is going bad, and the reason they go bad.

Does unopened wine go bad?

Yes, unopened wine goes bad when it is way past the expiration date. Although the shelf life of unopened wine is longer than the opened wine bottle, it will still go bad. Just like any other food or drink, even wine goes bad. You can increase the shelf life of unopened wine by storing them in a wine cellar.

You go through all the trouble of fermenting the grapes and preparing wine in the first place so that they last for a long time. Yeast is added to grapes during the fermentation process to break down sugar and convert it to alcohol. This aids in the preservation of the juice in two ways. First, the reduced sugar content gives bacteria less to feed on, slowing the deteriorating process. 

Second, the inclusion of all that alcohol makes it far more difficult for most bacteria to live, which prevents spoiling. So usually, under normal circumstances, the unopened wine doesn’t go bad unless it is way past its expiration date.

The expiration date for every wine is different based on its nature, storage, and as well as manufacturers. Normally, it isn’t advised to drink wine that is expired, but in some cases, the flavors and aroma of the wine are still intact even though it is past its expiration date. In such cases, you can drink those wines.

The different types of wines with their shelf life when unopened are given below:

  • White wine: They will last 1–2 years past the printed expiration date
  • Red wine: They will last 2–3 years past the printed expiration date
  • Cooking wine: They will last 3–5 years past the printed expiration date
  • Fine wine: They will last about 10–20 years, if stored properly in a wine cellar

How to know if your wine has gone bad?

A wine that has gone bad has certain characteristics. Their smell and appearance strongly change when they are no longer edible. Some of the signs that your wine has gone bad are:

  • The wine becomes foggy or forms a deposit within the bottle when it has gone bad. These wines are not edible and should be discarded  The cloudiness indicates that bacterial activity has begun within the bottle.
  • Browning of wine is a common phenomenon when exposed to oxygen. Sometimes, there may be a change in color in a wine due to chemical changes.
  • The formation of bubbles in the wine also denotes that the wine has gone bad. This is actually an indication of second fermentation. Do not get confused with the bubbles in champagnes, which is a good thing.
  • The wine starts to smell like vinegar when bacteria in your wine begin to produce acetic acid.
  • They may also have a sweet smell like burnt marshmallows or caramel when oxidation occurs.
  • The wine has a very strong vinegar-like taste when it goes bad. You may also experience caramelized flavors.
  • Some wines might go bad during the manufacturing process itself. You will notice a very strong unpleasant smell like burnt rubber or garlic.

Why does wine go bad?

Both opened as well as unopened wine goes bad due to different internal and external factors. Although unopened wine is not so affected by any external factors like bacteria, oxygen, heat, and light, opened wine can go bad if it comes in contact with any one of these factors. This can result in chemical reactions that degrade the quality of your wine.

Bacteria begin to degrade your wine, turning it acidic and sour. Furthermore, prolonged exposure to oxygen converts wine to vinegar. Storing the wine in a cool place can help reduce these reactions, but opened wines will eventually go bad. You just can’t avoid this natural phenomenon. So it’s best to only open a wine bottle if you are determined to finish it in 1 or 2 sittings.

The unopened wines are safe from all of these, time is the only enemy for unopened wines. So, you’ll be able to increase the shelf life of these wines to some extent through proper storage. Find some of the wine storage methods for the home here.


In this brief guide, we have answered the query, “Does unopened wine go bad?” We have also discussed the shelf life of unopened wines, signs that your wine is going bad, and the reason they go bad.