Wine Storage: To Re-cork or Not to Re-cork

Suggesting someone not finish a bottle of wine they opened was a hard sell before 2020, but we’d bet that almost no one is re-corking a bottle in quarantine. But good news, the experts say you can chock it up to smart wine management rather than a lack of self-control. 

An open bottle of wine can only last 1-7 days depending on the type. 
It should be no surprise that sparkling wine carries the shortest shelf life. As with any carbonated beverage, you can’t expect the bubbles to last for long after opening. According to Wine Folly, you have about 1-3 days in the fridge with a proper, sparkling wine stopper.

A lighter or sweeter white or rose are going to last the longest of your every-day wines. Once opened, you can stretch a bottle for 5-7 days in the fridge with a cork. The cork helps, but the wine is still oxidizing so the taste will be noticeably different after just one day. But, if you are of the “wine is wine” mindset, that bottle will still be palatable for a few days after that.

The opened life-span of a white wine diminishes if it is a more full-bodied variety, such as an oaked Chardonnay or Viognier. Because these wines saw more oxygen during their pre-bottling aging, they oxidize faster upon opening. Still, you can keep them corked and in the fridge for a good 3-5 days without too much trouble. If this is a household favorite, Wine Folly advises investing in vacuum caps to more effectively re-seal the bottle for storage.

To that end, a wine aged in stainless steel wine barrels saw less oxygen (or at least a more controlled exposure to oxygen) during its creation, and therefore can likely last a bit longer after opening.
If red is your preference, Wine Folly offers this rule of thumb: “the more tannin and acidity […], the longer it tends to last after opening.” Still, on average, a red wine likely keeps only 3-5 days in a cool, dark place with a cork. This doesn’t necessarily mean room-temperature. You can (and should) chill or refrigerate your red wine after opening if your ‘cool dark place’ is still 70°F (21°C)

The exception to the maximum 1-week shelf-life of an open bottle is a fortified wine, like Port, Sherry or Marsala, which can last on the shelf for 28 days due to the addition of brandy. Even so, make sure that the shelf is in a cool, dark place because otherwise even fortified wines will quickly lose their flavors (except Madeira and Marsala which are already oxidized and cooked).

So, whether your goal going into the cold months is to exercise your will to not finish a whole bottle of wine every night, to free yourself up to try different varieties night-to-night, or if you got one of those popular Wine Advent Calendars and want to save some of your favorites for later, let this be your guide to making your wines last.

(We also recommend checking out this article from Wine Folly, as referenced throughout this post.)