10 Signs to Tell if Wine is Bad

Wines are great, and many people have available stocks or collections of wine to open during a celebration.

As wine undergoes the process of fermentation, it might be hard for someone to assume that it has gone bad. However, it’s essential to know how to tell if wine is bad, as bad wine can have adverse health effects and take away the supposedly good wine experience.

Physical Signs That Your Wine is Bad


An expert wine drinker can immediately discern whether or not a wine has passed its peak drinking potential. However, this is very learnable. This can be accomplished with sufficient deliberate practice and attention to primary points.

Like any other food and drink, wine has a period about how much time it would take for it to become bad once open. Once open for an extended period, wine can quickly become worse.

Even while opened wine bottles can last for weeks, proper storage is still necessary. Most of them lose their flavor and appeal within a few days without adequate storage.

Cloudy and Film

Yes, some wines are cloudy by nature. However, if you happen to purchase a naturally clear wine, having it turned cloudy may be an indicator of microbial activity taking place in the drink.


Browning is not always a bad thing. Wines frequently turn brown with time, reminiscent of fruit when exposed to oxygen. In fact, many delicious wines are tawny, but it does indicate how much oxidative stress the wine has been subjected to.

Oxidation is the process that causes white wines to turn a darker color, typically a brownish tint or a deep yellow. If the bottle’s color had changed even when it wasn’t intended to age, the content might already be bad.


The bubbles are the result of a second fermentation taking place in the bottle. This fermentation is unexpected, and therefore, it could ruin the wine. Contrary to champagne, the bubbles here are not a good thing. These indicate that your wine has likely gone bad and should be discarded.

Signs in Scents


The aroma of the wine is frequently one of the most apparent indicators of whether it’s time to open a different bottle. It’s also one of the vital aspects to take note of when tasting wine.

Acetic acid

When microorganisms in your wine begin to produce acetic acid, you may detect odors similar to or close to the following smells.

  • Noticeably like sauerkraut
  • Taste like vinegar
  • Sharp and sour

Oxidation scents

When oxidation takes place, the wine loses its freshness and produces odors that are characterized as:

  • Comparable to apples or sweet apple sauce
  • Unusually nutty
  • Sweet and smoky, reminiscent of caramel or charred marshmallows.

Reduction smells

  • Garlic
  • Cabbage
  • Burnt rubber or trash
  • Wet Cardboard

A certain bacteria in wine can break down the alcohol into vinegar-like acetic acid. These organisms turn the drink from a smooth saunter into an acidic slugfest. Bad wine has a pungent, acrid aroma when left open for too long. You can compare its smell to vinegar, nail polish remover, or paint thinner.

Although this is not the sole factor when a wine develops an unpleasant odor, it is a significant factor. Usually desirable things like sulfur compounds or Brettanomyces can also cause a barnyard or cabbage aroma. In conclusion, if the wine has an undesirable scent, it is probably defective and not worth consuming.

Taste Tellers


Perhaps you happen to fail to recognize the signs provided by the wine’s look and aromas. You can proceed and use your taste buds to examine if your wine has odd or intense flavors. These flavors frequently consist of:

  • Vinegar flavors: sharp and acidic.
  • Flavors of sherry or caramelization
  • Nuttiness
  • Similar to the taste of horseradish

Unusual Sweetness

If you purchase a glass of wine with an aroma that disagrees with its taste, the wine has most likely gone bad. Perhaps you bought something that’s not supposed to be as sweet as a dessert wine, but when you take a sip, it tastes like a dessert wine when it’s not supposed to be.

This effect can mean that the wine has been subjected to an excessive amount of heat, and as a result, it cannot be consumed.

As a result of the oxidation, it will frequently have flavors resembling caramelized applesauce and sherried notes.


A bottle of wine left open too long will develop a strong, sour flavor like vinegar. As you open and pour, you may feel slightly burning in your nasal passages, like horseradish, if you drink it.

Chemically flavored or astringent

Generally, a wine that has gone bad can be identified by its lack of fruit, raspiness, excessive astringency, or taste like paint thinner.

Unnecessary fizz

If your wine is not supposed to be fizzy, in other words, non-sparkling, but has turned fizzy, it might have gone bad. If a still wine develops carbon dioxide bubbles after bottling, it has gone through a secondary fermentation that destroys the wine’s original flavor.

Wine Shelf Life Expectancy


Different types of wine have a different shelf life. There are common factors that influence how long they last on the shelf, like the processes involved in making them. Knowing their basic shelf life can help you better discern whether or not your wine has already gone bad or is still good to go.

Unopened bottles

Of course, unopened bottles of wine have better shelf life than those that have been opened. Consequently, unopened bottles of wine can be preserved for a considerable amount of time, provided that it is kept in the appropriate conditions.

To properly store wine, the recommended area is somewhere cold and dark. Additionally, the bottle should be stored on its side. This position prevents the cork from becoming dry.

Here is a list of wines, along with their shelf life estimate, given that they are unopened. This list estimates how long they will remain drinkable after the printed date of expiration, given they are correctly stored and remain sealed:

Wine Types


Bottled red wine

 2–3 years

Bottled white wine

 1–2 years

Bottled rosé

 1–2 years

Vintage sparkling wine

5–10 years

Non-vintage sparkling wine

 3–4 years

Fortified wine

10 years or more/ Decades

Opened Bottles

A reaction known as oxidation happens as soon as a bottle of wine is opened. Thus, previously opened wine does not have the same shelf life as unopened bottles of wine. When wine comes into contact with air, the oxidation process begins.

Oxidation is a process that may wreak havoc on wine and even transform it into vinegar. In addition to  bacteria, other kinds of organisms can cause a bottle of wine to become bad. When bacteria get in touch with wine that has been opened, these organisms can potentially change the wine’s taste and structure.

Wine Types


Red wine

 3–6 days

White wine

 3–5 days

Rosé wine

 3–5 days

Sparkling wine

1–2 days

Fortified wine

1–3 weeks

If you cannot drink all of the wine, you should restrict the amount of oxygen and bacteria contact as much as possible. This will keep your wine okay for a longer time.

More About Telling If a Wine Is Bad


Wine faults

What is considered a fault in wines? A fault is a wine defect caused by natural occurrences, improper wine-making procedures, or mistakes made during the storage and aging process.

Although corked or aged wines are the most common causes of wine spoilage, wine faults can also cause unopened bottles to deteriorate. And so, it’s not always your fault if you discover a faulty wine in your storage, don’t beat yourself up too much.

Identifying flaws in a bottle of wine based on its odd flavors or scents is common. The detecting process is the same as one would do with an already open bottle of wine.

Leaky bottle or a rickety cork

Damage caused by heat may be indicated by a cork that is either too loose, too high, or too leaky to be ignored. Because of this damage, the aroma and taste of the wine may undergo minor shifts, resulting in a wine that is less aromatic and flavorful overall.

Risk of Drinking Spoiled Wine


Yes, it is safe for a person to consume a tiny bit of spoiled wine without worrying about its effects. However, they should steer clear of consuming excessive quantities of bad wine.

Food poisoning

The growth of bacteria that cause food to deteriorate can lead to food poisoning. This form of spoiling rarely occurs but is still a possibility. The following are some of the classic symptoms of food poisoning:

  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Dehydration
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea


For wine drinkers, it’s essential to know how to tell if wine is bad. This way, you can avoid health risks and waste a good bottle of wine. Apart from this, you should also acquaint yourself with proper storage and be observant. These are some of the things a responsible wine drinker needs to know.

Signs to Tell if Wine is Bad

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