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How to Tell If Wine Has Gone Bad

6 Signs Your Bottle of Wine's Gone Bad

Not all wine is ideal for storing. If it's been in contact with air for too long or has a tainted cork, the liquid inside has turned and should not be consumed. Here are a handful of telltale signs that might indicate a good wine has gone bad.

  • The smell is off. If a wine's aroma is moldy or resembles a musty basement, wet cardboard, or vinegar, it's turned. A heavy raisin smell is another bad signal.
  • The red wine tastes sweet. If the bottle of red wine has the aroma of Port or tastes like dessert wine (even though it is neither of those two things), it has been overexposed to heat, and is therefore undrinkable.
  • The cork is pushed out slightly from the bottle. That's a sign the wine has overheated and expanded within the bottle.
  • The wine is a brownish color. A brown hue in red wine demonstrates that the liquid is past its prime. White wines that have darkened to a deep yellow or brownish straw color are usually oxidized.
  • You detect astringent or chemically flavors. Wine that lacks fruit, is raspy, too astringent, or has a paint-thinner taste is usually bad.
  • It tastes fizzy, but it's not a sparkling wine. A still wine that is fizzy or effervescent has undergone a second fermentation after the bottling and shouldn't be enjoyed.

One last word of advice: Always smell and examine the actual liquid. Although the term "corked" commonly refers to tainted wine, inspecting the cork alone will not determine if the wine has gone bad. Use your other senses. Have you ever had an undrinkable bottle of wine? How did you know it was questionable?

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Anna Monette Roberts
Join The Conversation
flinnte flinnte 3 years
If it tastes like vinegar and you can't return it, make it into vinegar. When you say don't drink it, is it only because it will taste bad or will it harm you?
LynnieB LynnieB 3 years
There is a dirty little secret in the wine industry. Up to 10% of some lots of wine are damaged by bad corks, bad storage conditions, etc. Always take a bad bottle back to the store where you bought it. Any reputable dealer will take it back and replace the bottle or give your money back. They can turn it back to the distributor. In a restaurant, if you're not sure, ask the waiter to have it tasted by their wine expert, but don't expect them to take it back just because you don't like the wine. Some people are much more sensitive to some of the "corked" flavors than others. I will sometimes drink a wine that has a slight mustiness without it diminishing the flavors for me, but my wife is much more unpleasantly sensitive to the slightest corked elements than I am.
testadura67 testadura67 5 years
I like that a wine that "has a paint-thinner taste is usually bad". Whether it's turned or not, if your wine tastes like paint thinner, I'm gonna go ahead say don't drink it, haha! Good tips though, thanks for the info!
doolan doolan 5 years
I bought 6 bottles of wine when my son was a baby for his 21st which was last night..we opened one and it was just very ordinary with a bad aftertaste and no-one could finish their glass..hard to explain..not fizzy just yuk...Henske so worth $165 now...wanted to sell the other 5 but would just hate to rip someone hard to judge wine xxx
SeptemberLights SeptemberLights 8 years
There is a difference between wine cheap wine and wine that has gone bad- Ive had plenty of cheap wines that were very drinkable-and plenty that were 'fizzy' and they were meant to be. If you taste wine that has gone bad you will know! You will probably gag when you smell or taste it. Its just like drinking bad milk. You will know when its gone bad...
sleepypie sleepypie 8 years
Very helpful! I've been looking for pointers like these for a while now.
Babycakes1234 Babycakes1234 8 years
Magicflute, Julia Child used to say that you should never cook with wine that you wouldn't drink! So if it's bad, it's bad. Just toss it or return it to the store where you bought it if it's a recent purchase.
mominator mominator 8 years
I like the idea of using old wine as vinegar. This was very informative. Thanks!
legalbeagle legalbeagle 8 years
A friend gave my boyfriend like 8 bottles of homemade red wine this winter. We cracked one open and it smelled weird but we just thought it was because it was homemade... well it tasted like drinking a cup of vinegar or something. I had never had a glass of wine that was bad, but you know it the second you open the bottle and smell it.
info info 8 years
This is pretty misleading advice overall. - How about an aged Meursault? Is that not deep golden yellow? you wouldn't want to throw that down the sink. - aged claret also often has a brownish tinge to it, even when aged to it's prime - to say a small amount of effervescence in wime means it is off is totally inaccurate. there are many great wines that are supposed to have what is called 'spritz'. Undesireable effervescence also exists, but will cause unpleasant flavours in the wine so shoudl be easier to spot. - a wine that lacks fruit may just be a poor wine, not an off wine
tlsgirl tlsgirl 8 years
Also, you're right suziryder, that was a rather hilariously anticlimactic champagne popping.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 8 years
I'd never gotten a bad bottle until about two weeks ago. The wine looked fine, but it tasted and smelled like vinegar. So sad to have to throw it out.
julie32982 julie32982 8 years
I had a bad bottle of red wine once. Unfortunately, I just opened the bottle, poured a glass and took a swig only to find the wine completely rancid. d-i-s-g-u-s-t-i-n-g.
suziryder suziryder 8 years
Oh, and that's me in the Boston sweatshirt in the video :P
suziryder suziryder 8 years
Last year on New Year's Eve, my dad got a bottle of bubbly out of the basement and struggled for a long time to get the cork out. Then instead of popping out, the cork just plopped into his hand with a sad little "Ffft". He poured a glass, and the wine was dark brown! It was so gross, but we were all cracking up. Of course we dumped the wine! You can see the video of it here, haha:
partysugar partysugar 8 years
Girls we didn't open them all! We tried like 3 bottles and they were all good.
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
good to know.
Smacks83 Smacks83 8 years
I like the idea of just using "bad wine" for good vinegar. Unless there is some health reason not to (anyone know?)
roxyb roxyb 8 years
I'm with Yum, how many were still good?
macgirl macgirl 8 years
My husband and I had a case of wine that we loved and were so bummed when half of it had that fizzy thing going on. Glad to know I wasn't crazy when I said "it tastes like its carbonated". I would hope anyone that encountered a wine that tasted like paint thinner might know that something is wrong ;-)
jennjennnbubba jennjennnbubba 8 years
I rarely store wine but this is still really good to know
chiefdishwasher chiefdishwasher 8 years
Party...I thought you never had left over wine.
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