The Science of Wine: Does Wine Need to be Refrigerated?

Science of WineFirst of all, does wine go bad? Yes. Wine does not last indefinitely.

Bacteria turn the sugar from grapes or the alcohol into vinegar. Bacteria need oxygen to grow. Wine’s fermentation process produces a lot of carbon dioxide when yeasts turn sugars into alcohol, and after that it needs to be sealed. When you uncork the bottle, you expose it to air, oxidizing it, and the flavor begins to deteriorate because of chemistry changes.

How to Know When to Refrigerate

Did You Open the Wine Bottle?

If you didn’t open the bottle yet, then you don’t need to refrigerate. Average refrigerators are too cold to store wine. If you did open the wine bottle, you can refrigerate it. But it depends on which type it is and how quickly you plan to drink it. Once opened, most wines will stay unspoiled for about a week. However, you should always replace the cork.

Red Wine vs. White Wine

Many people refrigerate opened white wine, but keep opened red wine at room temperature. Why? Many wine drinkers agree that red wine tastes better at room temperature. It wouldn’t make sense to chill and rewarm wine before serving, because temperature fluctuations can alter its chemistry and damage the flavor. Expensive red wines, in particular, are even said to improve from a small amount of oxidization. However, putting white wine in the fridge is better than using ice to make it cold, which will dilute your wine.

Sparkling Wine

Cold temperatures keep the carbon dioxide in the bubbles from dissipating more quickly. Once opened, sparkling wine should be re-corked and refrigerated – the cork partially re-pressurizes the bottle to keep the bubbles from dissipating.

How Can I Tell if Wine is Bad?

  • Cork is leaky or crumbles when you open it
  • Wine has cloudy appearance or dusty settlement at the bottom
  • Tastes or smells like vinegar

There is nothing wrong with drinking bad wine, except that it will taste bad.

How to Store Longer Than a Few Weeks

Wine lasts longer if it’s sealed airtight and stored properly. Especially if the wine is high quality, it can last for years! However, if you’re storing average or cheap wine, it should be drunk within a year or two. Not everyone has a wine cellar, but there are a few tips you can follow to keep it fresh.

  • Ideal conditions are a cool, dark place at a constant temperature of 50-55° F.
  • Keep away from refrigerators because they generate heat while on.
  • Keep bottles on their sides so the cork will continually stay moist and it won’t dry, shrink, or develop any tiny holes. If the cork fails, letting air inside, wine stops aging and starts deteriorating.

If you’re dreaming of a wine cellar of your own, or just trying to learn more about shopping for wine, stop by Julio’s Liquors in Westborough, MA. Our wine department has a team that can answer any questions. Be sure to visit our Angel Share Tasting Room where we have 48 wines on tap to “try before you buy.”

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