How to Know If You Can Drink an Old Bottle of Wine

I went to college in France and brought home a decent amount of French wine. Some of this wine was drunk with friends almost immediately, but I kept several bottles and moved from apartment to apartment over the years, saving them for a “special” occasion.

College for me was … some time ago, so looking at the bottles now, a big question arises: can you still drink them?

I have followed very closely how wines are stored over the years and, with the exception of a few brief power outages during storms in the summer months, everything has been kept cool and stored properly. The Washington Post recently published an article explaining what else to look for in those dusty bottles you keep in your basement.

Check the cork

The first thing you need to do to determine if a bottle of wine is fit is to look at the space between the cork and the wine. Most bottles should have about a quarter of an inch between the cork and the wine in the bottle. You do not need to pull out the measuring tape to do this if you have another bottle of wine in the house for comparison. If your old bottle has more room than it should, chances are the wine has oxidized, evaporated, or leaked through the cork.

Look for a leak

Another good sign that things have gone south? If you see something like a leak on the outside of the bottle. If the bottle leaked at some point in its journey, now this wine will not be too tasty.

Do your due diligence

It never hurts to look at the manufacturer and the vintage and just see what’s in there. You can see what others are saying about the bottle (and when) and get a good idea of ​​how things are going. For example, if all bottle reviews have started to get worse in recent years, that is a good sign that the bottle is starting to flourish and it might be time to drink it.

When in doubt, the best solution will always be the simplest: just break the bottle and give it a try.


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