How to Tell if Your Wine has Gone Bad

old wine bottles in winery

Can wine go bad? Most occasional wine drinkers don’t know the answer to that question. And if you happen to be one of them, the answer is yes.

Wine can go bad!

You might have heard that wine can last indefinitely, but that’s not true. Once a bottle of wine is opened, you only have a few days to consume it before it goes bad. You should keep an opened bottle in the fridge. You must also seal it properly, not necessarily with its original cork. You can use a stopper, a rubber band, or a plastic wrap to reseal it.

Now, how do you tell if your wine has gone bad? Read on to learn the tell-tale signs that your wine is off.

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How to tell if your wine has gone bad


Sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio usually come with a pale yellow colour, while chardonnay and other varieties treated with oak have a slightly darker hue. When your white wine has gone a shade darker, your drink has probably aged or oxidised.

The same goes for red wine.

Hints of brown and rusty colours could only mean two things: a wine is old or oxidising. However, you shouldn’t see drastic colour changes in a fairly vintage wine that’s about 5 to 10 years old.

While you should check if your wine’s colour is off, you don’t want to judge a wine based on colour alone. So what do you do?  Smell it, of course!


A wine that has gone bad smells terrible. A whiff of cardboard or wet dog is a sign that your wine is corked. That means fungi has come into contact with the cork and developed TCA, which causes the horrible smell. However, certain wine varieties are supposed to smell funky. That’s their natural appeal. So, how can you tell if your wine has gone bad?

Take a small sip! Check if the wine tastes as terrible as it smells.


When your wine tastes sour, there’s no doubt about it, that’s one bottle that’s not meant to be enjoyed. If it tastes muted, raspy, or astringent, it should also go down the drain.

What happens if you drink old wine?

TCA doesn’t pose serious health risks to wine drinkers, but it can ruin your wine. Higher levels of TCA won’t go unnoticed. Its mouldy smell will be too pungent that you wouldn’t even dare to take a sip. Even when wine turns sour, which happens rarely, its taste won’t be pleasant, but it won’t be dangerous to drink.

With lower levels of TCA, a wine can be stripped of its natural flavour. Most wine drinkers will notice something’s off but won’t be able to identify it.

What do you do if your wine has gone bad?

Inform your sommelier or wine merchant if there’s something off about your wine. They know how to tell if your wine has gone bad. If it has, they can replace it with a new bottle. If your choice of wine is vintage and expensive, they will probably need more than a few days to replace it.

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