Can Old Wine Make You Sick?

Last Updated on October 25, 2021 by Tom

You want to enjoy some fermented wine, however, you are clueless about one question – can old wine make you sick? It has always been a concern for new wine lovers who are struggling between drinking aging wine or pouring it down the sink. In today’s blog post, you’ll discover the truth behind why wine goes bad, the problems associated with drinking bad wine, and tips on how to store those valuable bottles correctly. 

can old wine make you sick
can old wine make you sick

Want to know the answer about “will old wine make you sick?” Make sure you read to the end.

How To Tell If Wine Has Gone Bad?

All manufactured foods and beverages typically last for several months to several years, depending on their ingredients. While wine can be fermented to enhance flavor over the long term, remember that only 2% of wine can age – the rest has a limited time. So, how to tell if wine is bad?

Finding out if a bottle of wine has gone bad is easier than you think. All you need to do is activate your three senses; sight, smell, and taste. Yes, you heard it right – use your senses to decipher the changes in color, aroma, and taste of the liquid.

  1. Sight: Sight is the first sense you’re going to use when inspecting the wine. In general, the color changes from red to a darker brown in red wines, and more golden in white wines. This happens because the wine has been exposed to too much external oxygen – while oxygen can improve flavor, too much will oxidize it.
  1. Smell: When you open the cork, you will smell the aroma, or pour it into a glass to smell better. There are many ways to find out if a bottle of wine has gone bad, but generally, they tend to carry corked, vinegar, burnt marshmallow, and wet cardboard scents. Overall, the human nose is a good tool for distinguishing between the original smell and the smell of old wine.
  1. Taste: The next important step you can use to test your suspicions is definitely to taste the liquid. If it has a sharp sour flavor and leads to an unpleasant taste, it is unfortunately not drinkable. Similarly, if it has little or no taste or you have basically no taste on your tongue, it’s a good time to get a new one.

Why Does Wine Go Bad? 

There are a number of contributing reasons why wine doesn’t taste good. First of all, wrong storage conditions such as exposure to sunlight, heat, high vibrations, wrong positioning, and ambient temperatures. These factors can easily stir up the sediments, and change their original flavor. 

If we go a step further to understand the hidden meaning behind it, wine is usually bottled in dark materials, isn’t it? That’s because it protects the liquid from being exposed to strong sunlight and heat. A new bottle of wine can be stored on the side to keep the cork moist and tightly sealed, but the unopened bottle needs to be upright to reduce the surface area exposed to oxygen.

Did you know Brettanomyces or Brett is a yeast that can enhance the wine richness, but too much will lead to band-aids, gym socks, sweat, farm animals, or manure smell? This happens due to the types of grapes used in the winemaking process and the low hygienic quality in the winery.

If your wine is corked, or sometimes people may call it “cork taint”, you know there’s a problem. That is because of a chemical called Trichloroanisole, or TCA that smells like mold that forms in the cork. However, if your cork breaks into small pieces and falls into your bottle, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the wine has gone bad.

Can Old Wine Make You Sick?

Will old wine make you sick when ingested? Well, the flaws that you have read may make you think that they are harmful to human health, but they are not. Despite the unwanted change of those bacterias, you can completely drink them if you can tolerate their unpleasant smell.

Many people think expired food or drinks cannot be consumed, so they also apply that same theory to old wine. In fact, old wines can still be consumed several years after their expiration date.

For example, white wine can be used 1 to 2 years after the expiration date while red wine can be drunk 2 to 3 years after the expiration date.

Overall, it’s not dangerous to drink stale wine, but it’s an experience you might not want to try.

Can You Drink Oxidized Wine?

The biggest enemy that contributes to the oxidation of alcohol is undoubtedly oxygen. A small amount of air can produce a complex taste, but too much will speed up the chemical reaction. Air contact with wine can happen when you lose the cork or leave an opened bottle at room temperature without a lid. 

When coming into contact, the acetaldehyde in wine converts to acetic acid, which turns the liquid into vinegar. This is why you are more likely to hear people say to minimize oxygen interactions as much as possible. More information on how to store wine properly and tips to remove oxygen out of the bottle is down below, so stay tuned. 

There are large amounts of yeast and bacteria present in wine that can damage its flavor. For example, sulfur can develop if there is too little oxygen during fermentation, essentially causing a strong odor like burnt rubber or rotten eggs. In addition, spoiled yeasts and lactic acid can also give your wine a burnt smell.

Oxidized wines typically have lower alcohol levels and lower calories. You can still drink it, but don’t expect the pleasant taste it normally gives.

What Happens If You Drink Old Wine?

Vinegary taste and acetic acid in the wine can cause a slight burning and stinging sensation, even after drinking. Hence, can old wine make you sick? The answer is no because a bad glass of wine isn’t technically going to get you a trip to the hospital, but it certainly won’t get you an enjoyable drink.

One trick you can try to get rid of the smell of sulfur compounds is to leave the bottle open for a while for the smell to evaporate. If not, you can put a clean copper coin or small copper object in your wine and let it do its magic. The copper will absorb the sulfur smell, lessening the intensity of the wine’s aromas, and leaving your wine fragrant.

Why You Shouldn’t Age All Wine?

There is a common belief that wine tastes best as it ages. That is a false belief. In fact, only 2% of all wines produced are suitable for aging because of their special ingredients and different production processes.

Many newbies cherish the idea of ​​keeping their most precious bottle of wine for important occasions, but don’t know that time is one of their wine killers if the bottle isn’t designed to last. Most bottles of wine only last a few years, but if you don’t age them carefully, they will lose quality and can taste like vinegar.

After seeing some slight changes in color, smell, or taste, some people start to google: can old wine make you sick? So, to prevent that from happening, check with the seller, the wine’s origin as well as the production process before deciding whether to age the wine or not.

The Best Wine to Age

If you want to own a few bottles of aged wine, then check out our advice below for the right aging process. 

  1. Choose a wine with high acidity because higher acidity will keep the liquid fresh longer than wine with lower acidity. Another reason is that it deteriorates over time, so choosing a higher acid concentration will slow down the tarnishing process.
  2. Prioritize wines with higher tannins over wines with lower tannins. The tannins preserve your wine’s color and flavor for a long time, so the liquid will stay vibrant until the day you open it.
  3. Choose wines with high content of sugar such as dessert wines and sweet wines. Excessive sugar helps preserve your wine – similar to preserving homemade jams.  
  4. Avoid volatile acidity (VA) at all costs. Acetic acid occurs naturally in wine and does not cause serious harm, however, it is considered a volatile acid. High concentrations of VA can stop your wine aging, so be sure to ask the seller and check the ingredients list before buying.
  5. High levels of alcohol are best at aging such as Port with more than 15% ABV. It doesn’t have to be a Port wine, any wine with high alcohol content is great. 

How Long Does Wine Last?

How long wine lasts depends on the type, manufacturing process, and how you store it. For unopened bottles, you can still enjoy them after 1-5 years of production without having to wonder: can old wine make you sick? However, an opened bottle can only last from 1 to 6 days, except in the case of a Port where it can be stored for several weeks.

The best time frame for drinking different types of wine:

Sparkling: 1-2 days

White wine: 3-5 days.

Red wine: 3-6 days and cover with dark foil 

Dessert wine: 3-7 days

Port: 1-3 weeks

In addition, organic or sulfite-free wines are more sensitive due to the absence of preservatives. On the other hand, fruity flavored wines tend to lose their aromas soon after opening the bottle. With that said, with these fragile drinks, you should drink them all within 3 days.

The shelf life of a bottle of wine after opening is very short. So, if you don’t intend to drink it all at once, consider some of the ways below to prevent it from oxidizing.

Storing Opened Wine

Storing opened wine will no longer be a concern if you try these simple tricks. If you know you won’t be able to drink the entire bottle in one go, be sure to re-cap the bottle after each pour to prevent oxygen from entering. If you lost or broke it, then knowing how to store wine without a cork is a must. 

You can either use wine stoppers to replace the cork or invest in wine preservation systems such as a vacuum pump or an inert gas. A perfect combination is to combine one of these methods with storing the bottle in a low-temperature refrigerator for extra days of protection.

An important thing to keep in mind when storing opened bottles of wine is to keep them upright. This action helps to reduce the surface area of ​​oxygen that can be stored in the bottle. Another thing you can do is store the remaining liquid in smaller bottles by decanting it.

The Best Way to Store Wine

Wine needs to be stored properly in order to develop its full flavor. Wine coolers are more affordable and convenient for those who only own a few bottles to 200 bottles. Wine refrigerators come in a variety of sizes and functions to suit anyone’s needs.

Can Old Wine Make You Sick
Way to Store Wine

On the other hand, cellars are often used by wine collectors who care about quality and want a dedicated place to display their wines. If you buy a bottle or two occasionally and you finish it quickly in a few days, your kitchen refrigerator could be a good choice. However, wine should not be stored in a conventional refrigerator for long periods of time.

Here are some key things you need to keep in mind when storing wine:

  1. Temperature: Wine is best stored between 45°F (7°C) to 65°F (18°C) in a relatively cool and dark area: ideally temperature is around 55°F (12.8°C). This explains why a regular refrigerator is not a good choice because according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), your home refrigerators should be set at or below 40° F (4°C). Remember to keep the temperature constant because wine hates temperature fluctuations.
  1. Humidity: Wine enjoys a humidity of 50 to 70 percent because the dry environment causes the cork to shrink while excess moisture forms mold. This causes the cork to expand and contract, allowing outside air to enter. The ideal humidity range for wine storage is between 60 and 68 percent.
  1. Store your wine upright: Unopened bottles are suggested to be stored on the side to keep the cork moist and tightly sealed. Wine racks are perfect for storing wine horizontally and in a secure place. However, opened bottles should stand upright to reduce the surface area exposed to oxygen. 
  1. Stay away from vibrations and heat: Vibration disturbs the sediments in your wine and accelerates chemical reactions which alter its flavor. This could be a rattling refrigerator, a garage, or a speaker. In addition, keep the wine away from sunlight and heat sources such as fireplaces and microwaves to prevent the wine from getting cooked. 


The winemaking process, expiration time, and signs of oxidation are keys to consider when asking: Can old wine make you sick? As we now know not all wines can age, only a few can achieve deliciousness under proper storage conditions. Any wine collector needs to know these basics by heart to evaluate the problem and the consequences of consuming old wine.

That said, we’ve given you the information behind why wine goes bad and whether it poses any danger to human health. We also talked about what types of wine to age and how to age them correctly. Finally, we discussed ways in which opened bottles can be preserved to keep their originality for as long as possible.

Did we miss any tips on the topic of: will old wine make you sick? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

Thank you! Real Gastropub

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