Spoiled wine won't harm you, but it won't taste great.
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red wine and white wine on table with wine bottles in background
Credit: Allrecipes

We've all been there: You open a bottle of wine after work or for a dinner party, and by the end of the night there's still half a bottle left. Now what do you do with it?

Or, even worse, you fall asleep and wake up to find your favorite bottle of wine still sitting on the counter open and exposed. Of course, you don't want to throw the bottle away, but is it still safe to drink?

There really isn't a hard-and-fast rule about how long wine lasts once it's been opened. The truth is, it depends on the type of wine and how it's stored.

How Long Does Open Wine Last?

In general, table wines, which are your typical non-sparkling reds and whites, last three to five days after they've been opened. Fortified wines, like Port or Sherry, can last a few weeks or even months after they've been opened.

You'll find a full breakdown of how long each type of wine lasts after they've been opened below as well as how to store wine to keep it fresh.

Red Wine

If re-corked and stored in a cool, dark place, red wine should last three to five days after it's been opened. Wines with more tannins, which are the bitter compounds from the grape skins, seeds, and stems and the wood barrels, are more protected against oxygen and tend to last longer. So light red wines with fewer tannins, like Pinot Noir, won't last as long as rich reds with more tannins, like Shiraz.

If you can't find a cool, dark place to store red wine, it's better to place the wine in the refrigerator rather than let it sit out. In temperatures of 70 degrees F and above, red wine will go bad faster.

Light White Wine, including Sweet and Rosé

If re-corked and stored in the refrigerator, light white wine should last between five and seven days. The wine may lose some of its flavors as it begins to oxidize, but it will still be drinkable for up to a week. Just don't expect the full fruity flavors.

Full-Bodied White Wine

If re-corked and stored in the refrigerator, full-bodied white wine should last three to five days after it's been opened. White wines, like Chardonnay and Muscat, are likely to oxidize quickly because they are exposed to more oxygen during the aging process.

If you drink a lot of white wine, you might want to consider purchasing a vacuum wine stopper that will ensure an airtight seal on the bottle to keep wine fresh for longer.  

Sparkling Wine

Sparkling wines, like Champagne and Prosecco, will start to lose their carbonation fairly quickly once opened. If you really want to save a bottle, you will need a sparkling wine stopper — and even then, the wine will only last about one to three days in the refrigerator before it gets flat.

Fortified Wine

If re-corked and stored in a cool, dark place (below 70 degrees F) fortified wines, also called dessert wines, can last up to 28 days after they've been opened. Generally speaking, the sweeter the dessert wine — like Port, Sherry, and Marsala — the longer they last.

Some fortified wines, namely Marsala and Madeira, can last months after they are opened. These wines have already been oxidized and cooked so the shelf life is much longer because oxygen can't really hurt them anymore.

Bag-in-Box Wine

Once opened, boxed wine can last up to six weeks in your refrigerator. But unlike a bottle of wine, boxed wine has a set expiration date because bag-in-box wines aren't meant to age like a bottle. You should drink unopened bag-in-box wines within a year of purchasing or else they will spoil.

How to Know if Wine Has Gone Bad

First and foremost, it's important to note that consuming spoiled wine won't harm you. While it may be a bad experience for your tastebuds, spoiled wine is basically just vinegar so it's not toxic to consume.

If you want to know if your half-full bottle of wine is still worth enjoying another glass, you'll want to look at its color, smell it, and then, if you can't already tell, taste it.

If you pour a glass of red wine and notice that it's not exactly red anymore, and instead it's a tawny brown, it's probably time to throw the bottle away.

You can also smell the wine, and if it smells strongly like vinegar, it's probably already gone bad.

But, it won't hurt to give it a taste test. You will know if a glass of wine is worth drinking or not after one sip. Although, even if a wine is past its prime, it really is up to you if you want to drink it. Some wines still taste fine after their shelf life ends, and if it's good enough for you, that's all that matters.

How to Store Wine Better

To keep your wine from oxidizing too quickly, you need to make sure you have the correct equipment for the type of wine you're drinking.

For sparkling wines, make sure to have a sparkling wine stopper. For white wines, grab some vacuum wine stoppers. Or invest in a wine preservation system that will allow you to store any type of still wine for weeks, months, and even years.

Get in the habit of corking and storing your wine in between every pour — in the refrigerator for whites and sparkling, or in a cool, dark place for reds and desserts. It may seem like a pain to have to continuously get the wine out and uncork it, but at least you won't forget about the bottle and leave it open all night.

If worse comes to worst and you've lost the cork and don't have any other stopper, you can still cover your wine to slow the oxidation process down. Simply cover the opening with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and secure it with a rubber band. While this won't create an airtight seal, it will still ensure you don't have to throw the half-full bottle away, which would just be a tragedy.

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This story originally appeared on allrecipes.com