One Christmas my dear, sweet grandmother placed a half a bottle of wine on the table to pair with the festivities. Well, unfortunately, we'd originally opened that bottle back at Thanksgiving. It was a nice bottle. And while it would have been lovely to savor it to the very last drop, wine is a volatile liquid – constantly morphing and changing, and eventually dying a tragic death.
This particular bottle, having been exposed to the world for over a month, had looooong since kicked the bucket. Proving the point, of course, my brother ignored my advice, took a giant gulp, looked like he might hurl, and then promptly dumped the rest of the bottle down the drain.
So how long does an open bottle really last?
It all depends on the type of wine, how long it's aged, acidity and tannin levels, the quality, and how it was stored - but my general rule of thumb is 3 days.
There are some exceptions, of course. If it's sparkling, much like your soda pop the bubbles go bye-bye by Day 2. You may also find that lower-quality wines really aren't quite the same by the next day, and may even taste kind of flat or jammy.
But, on the other hand, many wines hold up really well and can be drinkable even 5 days after opening. Only a taste test can tell you for sure.
Will it make me sick?
Luckily, no. It's a bit like that half-an-apple that has been sitting in your fridge for the last few days: kinda brown, and soft, and not-so-yummy. But otherwise, it's not a health risk. In fact you can still use wine-past-it's-prime for cooking.
How should I store an open bottle?
Keep the bottle upright to limit the exposed surface area and recork or use a stopper. Red wine can be stored in a cool dark place or the refrigerator. White wine should definitely be chilled in a fridge or cooler. If you want to get fancy, you can try an affordable vacuum-pump, which removes some of the oxygen from the bottle and slows the effects of oxidation, or an inert gas system that shields the wine with a protective layer of gas.
If you've had it a few days, try it and see if you still enjoy it (that's all that matters, afterall). If you've had it open a few months, though, it's time to toss.