How to Keep an Open Bottle of Wine Fresh, According to the Experts

Tips, tricks, and suggestions to help keep an open bottle of vino ready for tomorrow — or even a few days later.

Someone opening a cork wine bottle
Photo: Courtesy of Basak Gurbuz Derman/ Getty

At the end of the night, it's sitting there, staring at you from your countertop . You know you can't finish it all in one go — so what do you do with that half-empty (or half-full) bottle of wine?

In the spirit of savoring every last drop, we polled wine experts and sommeliers from around the country for their tricks on dealing with those pesky half-finished bottles.

And while, first and foremost, how many days a wine remains "good" after opening can vary — some experts put the window down to 36 hours, others said wine was generally fine within a few days of opening — the number varies depending on several different structural elements, including the firmness of the wine's tannins, acid level, sugar and alcohol content.

Generally, full-bodied red wines can last anywhere from three to five days while lighter wines may only last two to three days.

"Lighter bodied whites and reds tend to be quicker to go bad," Max Pinksy, beverage director at The Rittenhouse in Philadelphia, told Travel + Leisure. "Heavier bodied wines tend to last a few days. Sparkling wine, in my opinion, only lasts two to three days if you want to experience it at its peak."

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Aged wines tend to be more delicate than newer ones, so immediately decanting an old bottle is generally a bad idea.

"The wine inside has already broken down the tannins so it becomes this complex, fragile liquid," Paula de Pano, the sommelier behind North Carolina's Rocks + Acid wine shop, told T+L. When old wines are "shaken up or exposed to too much oxygen, it will literally kill the wine. I wouldn't recommend an old bottle of wine be left unfinished once it's opened."

With this in mind, vino lovers may now realize that after leaving a bottle opened one night, the amount of oxygen let in will affect how the wine will taste the following day.

"Oxygen is the main contributor to the deterioration of wine; enough oxygen transforms and opens up the wine, but too much oxidizes it," de Pano added.

To prevent this issue, most connoisseurs keep tools for removing the oxygen on hand for their opened bottles, he explained.

Many sommeliers opt for the Coravin system. Although it can be pricey, starting at $99, it can extend the shelf life of your opened bottles by up to four weeks. A less expensive option is the Vacu Vin system (starting at $15). You can also go an alternative route with Private Preserve, a spray used in Michelin-starred restaurants to keep bottles fresh between pours.

But without any fancy tools or methods, when you're done with your wine for the evening, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, be sure to store your wine with its cork. If you regularly drink champagne or other sparkling wines, you may want to invest in a champagne stopper to help keep your bottles fresh. Bottles should also be kept out of light (that means away from windows) and kept cool, but not necessarily cold.

The wine experts we spoke with agreed that storage temperature doesn't really affect the aging temperature. (Read: putting a bottle of red in the fridge instead of keeping it on the counter won't make it last longer.) Storing wine in the fridge has more to do with what temperature you'd like it to be when you drink it.

If you're prone to leaving half-bottles of wine lying about, consider purchasing smaller, personal-sized bottles from your local wine shop. Saul Ishizaki of Brasserie SLO in California recommends keeping some of these smaller bottles in your kitchen.

"Transferring the wine to a smaller sealed vessel, like an empty half bottle of wine, reduces exposure to oxygen," he told T+L.

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at caileyrizzo.com.

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