White wine; How long does it last?

What about white?

Does it last?  For how long?  What’s the best way to keep a bottle once it’s been opened?  And, how can you tell if it’s bad before tasting it?

Just like red, how long a white wine lasts really depends on the type of wine.  In addition, white wines are sensitive to light and heat, making them a little more temperamental.

As a general rule, these are the numbers to think about when it comes to white wines and how long they’ll last opened and unopened:

No More Than 3 days – Opened
1-2 Years – Unopened

How long does white wine last when opened?
The best bet, with any wine, is to drink it in its entirety.  All wines flavors change once opened and whites, being as sensitive to temperature as they are, can change in ways that that make it taste pretty bad, pretty quickly.  That said, there are ways to keep whites after opening them and to enjoy them a few days later.  The key to this is understanding the white you’re trying to keep and following the guidelines to do so.

Here are the basics for how long white wines will last, but remember, whites are sensitive to light, temperature, and so the style can also dictate how long the wines last.

Sparkling Whites: 1-3 days in the fridge with a sparkling wine stopper.
Light Whites: 5-7 days in the fridge when recorked.
Full Bodied Whites: 3-5 days in the fridge when recorked.
Wine in a Bag in a Box: 2-3 weeks in the fridge.

What happens when wine goes bad?
Wine is a tricky creature.  While oxygen is good for opening up a bouquet (it’s why we swirl, decant, aerate) oxidation is also what turns a wine, giving it that distinct, vinegary taste.  Whites oxidize far more quickly which is why they aren’t decanted, so the more exposure to oxygen, the worse for the wine.  There is no way to completely block wine from exposure to oxygen.

Once white wine comes oxidizes the wine will start to get a sour, vinegary taste and there will also be a change in color with white wines deepening and yellowing.

Oxidation isn’t the only cause of wine going back, you can learn more about this in the article where we discuss the most frequent reasons wine spoils, and the smells that are associated with different faults.

How can I extend the life of my wine after it has been opened?
Although nothing will be able to extend the life of your wine indefinitely, or even more than a few days, there are two tools that can help you keep an opened bottle for longer. One is called vacuum stopper.

This tool is essentially a little pump with a bottle stopper that allows you to suck the air out of the bottle after you put the bottle stopper on essentially creating a vacuum. It’s this air that causes oxidation. So, the less air that remains in your bottle after you close it, the less quickly your wine will oxidize. It’s a handy little tool that every wine lover (new or old) should have in his arsenal.

Unless you always finish a bottle each time you open one (there’s no shame in that!), these tools will help preserve your wine for longer rather than forcing you to sniff and toss it in the next day or two.   With two different price points you can find the best one for you based on how much you drink and the cost of your typical bottle.  After all, these devices pay for themselves because you’ll throw out less, or no, wine!

How long does white wine last unopened?
When stored properly, unopened white wine can last a considerable amount of time.  Cellaring is the best option but your pantry, if kept cool and dark, is the next best place.

Assuming that more of us have pantries than cellars, here are the basic guidelines for keeping unopened wines in the pantry:

Bottled Whites last 1-2 years
Juice Boxes last 1 year

How do I  know if my wine has gone bad?
Lucky for you, there are ways to see and smell whether or not your wine has gone bad – that means you don’t always have to taste it.

Visual Clues
Oxidized wines generally turn brown.  For a white wine you’re going to want to avoid a wine that has turned a deep yellow or straw color.  A change in color is a good sign that something’s up – but you can also sniff or even taste the wine to confirm.

If the cork has been pushed out of the bottle, you’ve got spoiled wine.  This is a sign that the bottle has been heated too much.  This normally happens in transit but could feasibly occur in warm climates where the bottles have not been properly stored.

If you see bubbles but the wine is still, it’s bad!  You can also hear this clue – when opening a still bottle of wine you shouldn’t hear a deeper pop like you would with champagne.  While it won’t be nearly as loud, there is a distinct sound that a wine gone fizzy emits when the cork is removed.

Clues Through Smell
Smells like vinegar. This is a tell tale smell sign that your wine is way past its prime.  Vinegar or sour smelling wines should be dumped.
Smells musty. Basementy?  Wet cardboardy?  Anything that smells like something that’s been damp and sitting, like mildew, is likely “corked” and definitely not drinkworthy.  While corked bottles are rare, musty smelling wines, no matter what the reason – you don’t want to drink bad wine.
Smells sweet.  If a dry white smells sweet, it’s bad.

Clues Through Taste
Tastes like vinegar.  While some wines do have vinegar on the nose, a vinegar taste is a good indication that the wine has oxidized.
Tastes fizzy. Still whites should never fizz so if you feel slight bubbles, it’s gone bad.
Tastes flat.   A lack of fruit flavors and general dullness to wine often mean the bottle is bad.

Learn From Bad Wine
If you’re at an event or restaurant and you’re told that the bottle is bad once the sommelier or staff has opened it, ask for a lesson!  When they bring a new bottle you can ask questions as you compare and contrast the good stuff with the bad – color, scent – these will develop your understanding of what the descriptors we’ve gone over mean.

That’s it….
It’s always best to drink a bottle of white wine within a few hours of opening it but if you’re alone or with another person and this isn’t an option be sure to recork it and get it in the fridge as soon as possible.  If it’s sparkling, use a sparkling wine bottle stopper.  For still wines use a combination vacuum pump/wine stopper cap to get the air out and prolong the wine’s life.  If you’re ready, invest in a Coravin for the newest technology in making wine last longer.

Be sure to use the comments to tell us your white wine gone bad stories, share tips, and tell us the devices you find most helpful in storing wine.