Wine Ripening: When Should You Open That Bottle of Wine?

So, you’ve just purchased a brand new bottle of wine. You may choose to crack it open now and enjoy it, which is a perfectly fine way to go about things. Wine is made to be enjoyed, so have at it.

However, many people prefer to store their wines for a certain period of time. The benefits of this differ from wine to wine. Many wines benefit from a little storage time, as this helps them to mature into the wines the producers intended them to become. Others should be opened sooner, rather than later, as staying in storage for too long could lead them to maturing beyond peak ripeness. This affects the taste and complexion of the wine.

That leads us to an important question. How long should you store a bottle of wine?

It’s a simple question. Unfortunately, it definitely does not have an easy answer. In truth, how long you should store a wine before opening it will definitely depend on the wine itself.

We aim to offer a basic run down here, covering a few different types of wine. Even so, you should not follow this information verbatim. It always pays to research the specific vintage of wine you have purchased to discover how long the producer or its consumers believe you should store it.

Just consider this to be a really general overview.

Red Wines

When people think of wine storage they typically refer to red wines. These types of wines are certainly the ones that benefit most from storage over a long term, as most red wines have space to mature further beyond the date that they get sent out for retail.

In many cases, you can store red wine for a number of years before opening the bottle. You could keep some for as many as 30 years. How many years depends on the wine and how old it is when you acquire it. For example, a 2000 vintage will require far less time in storage than a 2014 vintage.

Red wines benefit well from spending time in storage as you give the wine some more time to reach peak maturity. Keep the bottle sealed, of course, and place it in a cool area. Do not refrigerate the bottle. This will slow down the ageing process and prevent the wine from reaching its peak maturity. As a general rule, do not move the bottle once it has been placed in storage. You may cause sediment to spread into the wine.

You’ll know if a red wine has ripened well if it has a ruby red colouring when you pour it.

White Wines

The rules change a little for white wines. While you can still age a white wine, the general rule is that you should open that much sooner than you would a red if you want to catch them a peak ripeness.

Again, how long you should age a white wine will differ depending on the wine in question. You almost never want to exceed five years for a white wine, and even that really only applies to the white wines that have been created for ageing. Typically, you should open the bottle within a year of purchasing. You could even do it sooner if the wine was already aged for a while before you bought it.

The same storage rules apply for white wines as they do red. You can usually keep a better eye on how well a white wine is ageing, too. Look into the bottle and see if you can tell what colour the wine is before opening. Ideally, it should have a golden hue to it, perhaps with small flashes of green or yellow, depending on the wine.

Sparkling Wines

Sparkling wines offer an extra wrinkle to the formula. After all, too much ageing can lead to them going flat and losing the texture that makes then so popular in the first place. As a general rule, you should not age a sparkling wine for more than three years. Cheaper varieties should probably be consumed almost immediately after purchasing.

The story changes a little when you get to the really fine sparkling wines. The best Champagnes and Proseccos have a little more capacity for ageing than regular sparkling wines. In some cases, you could store a Champagne for as long as you’d store a quality red wine and not see any decrease in the quality of the wine. As we keep saying, it really depends on the quality of the vintage.

A final tip. Refrigerate a sparkling wine about one or two days before you open it. This will give it the chill that makes the wine so refreshing, without causing issues with the wine itself.

“New” Wines

A fairly modern concept, “New” wines are created to be consumed almost as soon as the bottle is purchased. You may see such wines carry tags like Nouveau or something similar. This means the wine is not meant to reach maturity.

With such wines, the generally accepted thought is that you should not store the wine for more than five to eight months. After that, the wine loses everything that makes it unique from other types of wines.

Consuming After Opening

As a final thought, we’ll offer some advice on how well a wine is likely to keep after you have opened the bottle.

For red wines, you typically want to consume the entire bottle within five days of opening it. Otherwise, oxygenation will affect the wine and cause it to lose a lot of its quality.

White wines have an even shorter post-opening shelf life. You should place them in the fridge and consume them within three days of opening or the wine will start to go sour. The same goes for sparkling wines, as they will lose their bubbles fairly soon after you open the bottle.

The only outliers to this “drink within a week” mentality are fortified wines. These have been designed to last a little longer after opening. In some cases, you can keep such wines for a month after opening the bottle.



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