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Wine Bottle Aging Experiment

We get questions almost daily on wine aging. One of the most common questions surrounds how long a bottle of wine can last after the cork is pulled. From an anecdotal perspective we have recommended a few days, but is that really accurate? And certainly the varietal must play a role?

WineAgingWe have also noticed, contrary to popular opinion, when some red wines are opened and allowed to stand for several days they actually improve. That can most likely be attributed to an accelerated aging process due to the oxygen in the head-space of the bottle reacting with the tannins in the wine. Since oxygen can also degrade color, flavors, and aroma, this accelerated aging is a race between the softening of the tannins and the oxidation of the sensory components.

This experiment was designed to determine the effects of prolonged aging of an opened bottle of wine over time. We wanted to determine if there was an optimum length of time for aging a wine as well as when serious degradation of quality became evident.

Five wines were chosen for this experiment…

Wine Name and Reason Chosen

Sauvignon Blanc: White wine with flavors and aromas that are very sensitive to oxidation

Late Harvest Vignoles: White, high sugar wine that ages fairly well

Capriccio: Red wine with fruit forward character and very little tannin

Merlot: Red wine with moderate tannin

Meritage: Red wine with firm tannin

The Sauvignon Blanc and the Capriccio were from the prior vintage and were opened within 30 days of bottling. The Vignoles, Merlot, and the Meritage were 18 months old at the time of the evaluation. Thus, all of the wines, except for the Vignoles, were considered to be at the beginning of their bottle aging cycle.

Bottles of the selected wines were opened at selected intervals, 5-6 oz removed, and were re-corked using the original cork as would a consumer. The bottles then sat for the prescribed number of days at room temperature. The wines were all evaluated on the same day, beginning with a freshly opened bottle and proceeding to the oldest wine. We have detailed notes available for anyone interested. Simply contact us and we will send the complete report.

After all this research, what is the conclusion? Generally speaking aromatic white wines are best consumed within a few days of being opened. Bolder red wines can stand to be open longer, and in some cases will improve for several days after being opened. But like most things in the world of wine, it’s all a matter of personal preference. But after this experiment, we certainly wouldn’t go dumping that week old Meritage down the sink!

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