I am yet to come across a bottle of wine with a 'best before' or 'use by' date. However, it is well known that an unopened bottle of wine tends to spoil after a while - typically years, and quite a lot sooner for inexpensive wines.

High quality wines are often considered age-worthy, with those high in residual sugar such as Sauternes having a legendary aging potential, for 100 years or more in some cases. Professional reviews of fine red wines often indicate a drinking window decades into the future.

So to my question: is there any way to calculate roughly the drinking window of a given wine? Do the pros have a secret formula based on the grape variety, alcohol level, residual sugar, sulfites, and/or other factors? Or is it just down to experience - sampling thousands of wines of various vintages?

What motivated this was the recent discovery of a ten year old bottle of cheap (£5) white wine in a cool dark store room at work - a 2012 Bergerac. Of course, I could just pop the cork and see what it's like, but it had me wondering why retailers never seem to indicate a best before date (assuming correct storage and good closure). Furthermore, can drinking a moderate amount of a wine way past its best cause illness?

I note that bottled beer, with its lower alcohol content, always carries a clear 'best before' date.

  • 1
    It can matter quite dramatically how a wine is stored. One afternoon in a hot car trunk can be long enough to spoil wine. Also some red wines would be better to have a "best after" date rather than a "best before" date.
    – Eric S
    Nov 3, 2022 at 22:43
  • A "best after" date would be an interesting thing to see on a label. You tend to see this only on the merchant's blurb or in wine publications, and never at the lower end. I suppose the point at which a wine reaches its peak is subjective to an extent. Conversely, those qualities that indicate when a wine is so far past its best as to be considered spoiled are usually objectively evident, e.g. insipid fruit, cloudy appearance, vinegary, unbalanced. My question about the absence of "best before" dates mainly relates to inexpensive supermarket wine, e.g. <£15 a bottle, assuming correct storage.
    – greenback
    Nov 4, 2022 at 14:31


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.