Does wine go bad? A slightly different from beer, the answer is very straightforward-yes, but its shelf life depends on the quality.
Wine, the divine beverage, is all about its integrity and beauty and the story behind it. You might have wondered how the simple grapefruit can turn into such an enjoyable beverage. Multifaceted aromas and flavors filling out on the palate engender your awe of this captivating beverage.
As time goes by, the world’s most captivating beverage lasts forever for its mysterious and profound depth and complexity.
What’s the secret behind it?
Understanding the basic of how wine is made will give you the grounding to explore more of wine meaningfully, including helping you tell whether your wine has gone bad.
How is wine made?
Viniculture and winemaking have been found dating back to 8000 B.C. and possibly earlier, according to research conducted by Swiss grape geneticist Dr. José Vouillamoz and Dr. Patrick McGovern in 2012.
It’s been over thousands of years since this divine drink was invented. Yet, it was not until the 1850s that winemaking entered into the realm of science when yeasts were discovered for fermentation. By the 1960s, more professional winemaking equipment was started to apply in winemaking for better aromas, flavors, texture, and finish of a wine.
All wine comes from a simple grape!
In today’s winemaking, pressed grape juice, pulp, and skins (stems will be added or removed depending on grape varieties for excessive tannin) are placed in a fermentation vessel (stainless steel or concrete tank).
Fermentation occurs naturally as ambient strains of yeasts cling to grapes and are present in the wine cellars. However, this natural process takes time (often weeks) to create the desirable aromas and flavors. Also, it may produce funky aromas.
To better control the fermentation process, many winemakers prefer to add a strain of cultured yeasts, depending on how fast and intense they want it to be.
During the fermentation, the yeasts turn the grape juice (sugar) into alcohol. The process usually takes from a few days to weeks.
After the alcoholic fermentation, all red wines go through the second fermentation-malolactic fermentation (also known as malolactic conversion or MLF)-for softer taste and microbial stability. This post-fermentation process takes 4-6 weeks to complete.
There’re a few essential processes to go through before/after aging:
- Cold soaking: chill the tank down and leave the juice there for a few hours or days, extracting colors and flavors from the skins.
- Separate the skins from the alcohol (known as free run, the best possible for all luxury wines).
- Lightly press juice to release additional wine (called the first press).
- Oak barrels or Tank/Vat: High-quality wine will be aged in oak barrels for several months to years; fruity red wines usually will go into a tank or vat for a few months.
- Racking of the wine.
- Fining: improves the wine’s balance and tastes (softer and less bitter) by removing excessive tannin with a fining agent.
- Filtering or Unfiltering: filtering involves a process to remove sediments through microscopic filters for only liquid, while unfiltering contributes to the complexity of a wine.
Luxury red wines usually go through two important processes: barrel aging (oxidative) and bottle aging (reductive).
Oak barrel aging provides an oxidative environment in which helps balance the wine structure. Bottle aging environment slows down the chemical reactions in the wine, which gradually develops complex aromas and flavors into harmony.
An important note: The general (dry red) wine making information provided above is written based on The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil. The primary purpose behind this is to help you understand why proper wine storage is vital and how to.
How to store (red) wine properly?
That’s one of the critical tips you should know to enjoy this divine drink for the best aromas, flavors, and texture.
3 crucial tips for a proper storage environment:
Storage temperature can affect the various chemical changes in the wine and cause dramatic deterioration when stored at improper temperature. The ideal storage temperature varies depending on the wine varieties. Generally, an overall ideal temperature to store wine is 13 - 14 degrees Celsius (55 – 57 Fahrenheit). The key is to avoid temperature fluctuation.
- Avoid standing upright: keeping the bottle lying on its side will prevent the cork from drying out and oxygen going in.
- Avoid direct sunlight: UV ray can dramatically degrade the wine body, damaging its fruitiness, aromas and taste.
In reality, it’s not difficult to store your wine upright in a cool and dark environment. However, constant (right) temperature condition is nearly impossible throughout the year unless you have a cool cellar or basement.
The idea behind a compact wine fridge or beverage cooler is to give the best and most convenient storage environment with all these factors for wine lovers.
How to tell whether your wine has gone bad?
Wine’s shelf life generally depends on grape varieties and the quality (how it is made). Tannin is generated from the skins during fermentation. The right amount of tannin gives wine greatness, structure, and ageability, and more importantly, a longer shelf life.
As a matter of fact, there are a few signs when your wine has gone bad:
Looks: a change in color.
Smell: odor, harsh acidity, wet cardboard, no aromas.
Taste: sharper sour and flavors.
Generally, it doesn’t hurt you to taste the wine to see if it has gone bad. It’s better to throw it away from an enjoyable tasting and better health care standpoint when the first two signs have given the answer.
Wine can go bad naturally, even unopened. High-quality wine has the essential elements within itself to last for many years. Average or less expensive wine can also extend the shelf life (best taste) stored in a proper condition.
Upcoming post How Long Does Wine Last? Join our community and stay tuned!