Wine Storage: How To Tell if Your Wine Has Turned

Maybe you cracked open a fresh bottle of wine last week only to decide it better to save the rest of the bottle for later, maybe for Valentine’s Day, only now you aren’t too sure if that wine is still suitable to drink. Even if you followed all available advice for saving your bottle, before and after opening, wine can turn, and it can be difficult to tell whether it has.

The culprit for why wine turns is, as always, good old oxygen.

However, any exposure to oxygen will affect a wine’s color and taste. Just because it has grown slightly darker or the flavor has shifted doesn’t necessarily mean that your wine has gone bad. After all, oxygen isn’t the mortal enemy of wine, more of a fickle friend. Oxidation is a crucial part of the winemaking process and even the wine enjoying process — there is a reason we decant wines before drinking. But there’s a point where it forfeits help for ruin.

So how can you tell if the deed has been done? Color and taste.

Red and white wines will both darken with oxygen exposure. Reds will grow more brown, whites more yellow. Even so, a change in color doesn’t mean the wine is lost. So, you have to taste it. Not very scientific, but a bad wine won’t hurt you. Both reds and whites may turn more towards vinegar when they’ve turned. Whites especially will turn from sweet to sour. A turned red is sometimes more difficult to notice as they turn more flat or dull as they turn. The flavor of a turned red wine is often compared to sherry rather than vinegar.

At Skolnik Industries, we are firm believers that no wine should be wasted, so even if your wine has turned and is no longer palatable by itself, we’d recommend looking up a recipe in which it might be used. Slow cooker stews, sauces or marinades may provide a second life for your ill-fated wine. Or, you could even surrender it to oxidation and a future as vinegar. 

In short, if you set aside a bottle, don’t assume it is lost. Check its color, give it a sip, and find it a future — whether with your dinner or in your dinner.