How long do wines keep once opened?
Usually, not more than one evening at our house, but for those who are less enthusiastic drinkers, it depends on the type of wine.
The answer is a highly subjective, but generally, dry white wines have the shortest life once opened. I find they lose their character after even one or two days, especially cheaply-made, oaky whites. White wines with good acidity and lots of character from Burgundy are an exception, as these are often oaked as well. Acidity is one of main preservativs of wine, as long as it is in blance with other elements, such as fruit, tannin and alcohol.
For red wines, I think that most start to slip after two days, though again it depends on how well the wine was made. There are always exceptions.
Red wines tend to have more tannins than white wines because the grape skins are left in contact with the juice as it ferments, which imparts both tannin and pigments to the wine, both of which act as preservatives. Reds are often aged in oak barrels more frequently than whites, which imparts even more tannin to the wine.
Sweet and fortified wines, such as icewine, port and sherry, have a longer life because of their higher sweetness and/or alcohol, both of which act as a preservative. I still like most opened icewines after three to four days; ports from one week to four, depending on their quality.
In my latest group of wine reviews, there are more than a dozen red and white wines that will keep very well after being opened several days. You can get the complete wine list, also indicating their cellar potential and which stores closest to you have stock now.
How to Keep Open Wine Longer
You can extend the life of any opened wine by giving it a few squirts of liquid nitrogen, such as Wine Preserve, a spray can sold in many liquor and wine accessory stores.
Another trick is to pour your remaining wine into a clean, empty half bottle size and cork it. This also minimizes the amount of oxygen that can affect the wine.
Keeping your wine in the fridge, even reds, slows down the oxidation process. You’ll just need to take your red wines out of the fridge for 20 minutes before serving.
Some drinkers don’t mind a wine that’s still 60-80% there in terms of its character; others want the full expression or nothing. I tend to err on the latter side of the ledger.
More wine serving tips, including how to decant wine and what the right temperature is for different types of wine.