How To Tell If Wine Has Gone Bad

First of all, it's important to understand that wines are perishable. Wine contains alcohol and may change in appearance, flavor, or aroma. So if you have leftover wine after a party or an event, you should know how to tell if your wine has gone bad so that you can dispose of the spoiled wine or store it for later consumption if it hasn’t gone bad.

When you open a new bottle of wine, it’s best to drink the whole thing within a few days. Spoiled wine is mainly caused by exposure to air due to opening and closing the bottle. The main change in taste occurs when exposed to air for more than a day or two because oxidation changes some of its compounds. Correctly preserving wine mostly comes down to how you store it, and how much oxygen gets inside the bottle.

Signs of Bad Wine


A simple way to detect bad wine is from its visual appearance.

Spoiled wine has a dull color, with little or no shine. A wine's hue is maintained by the tannins that are released into the fluid during fermentation, and when the wine is no longer good it loses some of that hue.


Spoiled wines have an "off" smell that can be described as moldy, wet cardboard, sherry, moldy basement, and rotten eggs. Spoiled wines also tend to have more sediment in them. 


The last... and most effective way to detect if the wine is spoiled is by taste. A stale taste can be detected in old wine. I would say this is the most obvious way to tell if your wine has gone bad!

If the wine tastes like rotten eggs, it’s definitely bad and should not be consumed.

Wine can taste bad for a number of reasons.

The first is if the wine has been exposed to too much light or heat because this speeds up oxidation & causes chemical reactions. Oxidation occurs when the flavor compounds break down and release hydrogen sulfide. Oxidized wine is a sure sign that your wine has gone bad.

To combat this you're going to want to store it in a cool, dark location. Wine cellars are great for this, but if you don't have the room and budget for a dedicated sealed off room for your wines, a wine cooler is your best bet. Read more about wine coolers in our Ultimate Wine Cooler Buying Guide.

Another cause of wine tasting bad may be cork taint or microbial spoilage, both of which are caused by microorganisms that turn alcohol into acetic vinegar. Also, wines that are exposed to oxygen during bottling after fermentation can develop cork taint over time because bacteria makes it change from colorless ethyl alcohol into brownish ethyl acetate, resulting in a brownish straw color. Not fun!

What is acetic acid?

Acetic acid, also known as ethanoic acid, is a colorless liquid organic compound. Its name comes from the Latin "acetum", which means vinegar.

What is acetic acid in the context of bad wine?

A good way to tell if your wine has gone bad involves the detection of acetic acid because when wine is exposed to air for too long, bacteria converts the ethanol in wine into acetic acid, giving off an unpleasant smell and taste. This process is known as the “acetification” of wine and is the primary process behind wine degradation into vinegar. Such wines should be disposed of immediately. 

Is bad wine dangerous?

Bad wine is NOT inherently dangerous to drink. However, a bad wine can cause unpleasant side effects if consumed. So remember, "when in doubt, throw it out!"

Side Effects of Drinking Bad Wine

First of all, the bad taste and smell of spoiled wine will most likely irritate your mouth and nasal cavity if consumed. Also, spoiled alcohol can make you feel sick to your stomach, or make you vomit. All in all, you will most likely not enjoy that bad wine very much, though throwing out a high end bottle of wine hurts almost as much!

Wasting high end wines is one of the most common reasons we see for people buying a countertop wine dispenser system like the Plum Automatic Wine Dispenser. This unit can preserve your wine for up to 90 days using an innovative method to cool and save your wine at the ready at pouring temperature.


Main cause of bad wine: Cork Stains & Oxygen

The main reason why wine goes bad is that cork stains cause the formation of acetic acid. The oxidation process begins once oxygen gets into the bottle, and through a chemical reaction, bacteria transforms the alcohol into acid, which gives off a sour taste and smell. This happens at a much faster rate when exposed to high temperatures or excessive light.

Cork stains can turn your delicious glass of red wine into a concoction that tastes terrible. Be sure to store your wine in a dark place with less oxygen in order to prevent your drink from losing its flavors & aromas.

As you can tell, properly storing your wine is quite crucial.

Properly Storing Your Wine: Wine Coolers

That's where wine coolers, also known as wine refrigerators, come in handy.

Investing in a good wine cooler that can store your wines at ideal temperatures and humidity levels can save you from the headaches of your wine being spoiled and going down the drain.

Wine Coolers are not your typical home fridge. They are specifically designed for the right settings and temperatures to protect wines. With the increasing demand for wine consumption in recent years, wine coolers do not just belong to the sommeliers and restaurants anymore, they are becoming a staple of many modern households not just for their wine preservation benefits, but also because they make for attractive centerpieces in entertainment areas. 

Don't know where to start? We've compiled all of the information you need to figure out exactly which wine cooler is right for you and your needs in The Ultimate Wine Cooler Buying Guide.