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Ask a Somm: How Long Do You Really Have to Finish That Wine

Welcome to Ask a Somm, a column in which experts from across the country answer questions about wine.


Since Boka's revamp last February, the Michelin-starred New American restaurant in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhoodunder direction of chef/partner Lee Wolenhas picked up a gang of awards. On the beverage side of things there's Kyle Pepperell, who serves as both manager and wine director, and is responsible for an international wine list to complement Wolen's plates of chestnut ravioli and smoked Arctic char. Below, Pepperell expounds on wine and freshness.

Q: How long can you keep wine once it has been opened? Which varietals have the longest life (in the fridge or not) after being opened?

... most wine will keep for two days after opening ...

Pepperell: The longevity, or shelf life, of wine depends on a number of factors. One factor being the style of wine. Wines that are more tannic, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Nebbiolo, are going to have a longer shelf life and, in many instances, benefit from being opened for a bit. Likewise wines higher in sugar, such as Sauternes and other ice wines, will last longer once opened, while sparkling wines and Champagne will quickly lose their effervescence.

Another factor is how the wines are stored. Wine stored in the refrigerator after opening, both red and white, will keep longer than wine kept on the counter. Using vacuum sealed tops will increase the shelf life by limiting exposure to oxygen. The last factor would be quality of the wine. Premier and Grand Cru Burgundy is an example of wine that tends to improve after being opened for a couple days. All in all I would say that most wine will keep for two days after opening, but if properly stored you would be able to push this timeframe to three to four days depending on style and quality of the wine.

Points to Consider on Wine Shelf Life:

  • Wine varietal
  • How the wine is stored
  • Wine quality

Have a wine-related question you'd like answered? Hit the comments.

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