How Can You Tell If Wine Has Gone Bad?

Last Updated on August 1st, 2023

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Nobody likes pouring themself a glass of wine only to find that it’s taste resembles acid more than it does actual wine. Forgot to put the cork back on your opened bottle of wine? Yeah, that might just be the result. Oxidation is a pain sometimes, isn’t it? It happens to the best of us. Here’s how to tell you’re about to take a sip of that vinegar-esque drink before you do it.

How Can You Tell If White Wine Has Gone Bad?

Of course, I can’t tell you what every wine would look or smell like when gone bad. It varies by wine.

A key indicator for white wine is the color. If it’s been oxidized, it will often turn more yellow, so avoid drinking white wine if it’s starting to look more straw-colored. Don’t only look out for the yellow, though. While that’s the most common color to look out for with your white wine, I’d be worried if the color was off-looking at all.

Another sign to look out for is bubbles when the wine is supposed to be flat, but I think that’s a bit of an obvious answer.

Woman testing a smell of red wine in a glass - How can you tell if it has gone bad?

How Can You Tell If Red Wine Has Gone Bad?

Just like with white wine, bubbles in wine that’s supposed to be flat is a big red flag. So is a difference in color. If your red wine has replaced its usual purple-red hues with something more brownish, it means it’s been oxidized and won’t taste quite as it should.

The smell of the wine also plays a role in how your wine’s doing. Does it smell like a wet dog? Or, perhaps maybe like someone’s farm animals? Probably not worth drinking.

If somehow, your wine has passed the visual and smell tests, now it’s down to trying. Maybe it didn’t even pass the tests. You just didn’t look out for the warning signs. If it tastes sour, duller than it should, or even nutty, that’s how you know it’s bad. 

What About Boxed Wine?

By now, I’ve told you mostly about the signs of wine that’s gotten bad when it’s been opened and left out or kept in a fridge. Boxed wine is a different story, though.

Most of the time, boxed wine will last a bit longer once opened than a typical bottle would. Boxed wine can last about a month to a month and a half after opening.

The best thing to do is drink it before the expiration date. I’d say it’s pretty reliable for wine. So, just look for that little best by date, and you should be good. If you’re daring enough to try it after it expires, go for it. I can’t stop you. If the taste, color, or scent is off, though, you might just want to toss it.

How About My Unopened Bottle of Wine?

There are ways for wine to go bad without it being expired or left out in the open. The most common one is something known as a wine being corked. This means the cork got infected by a funny little thing called TCA, tainting the wine to a point where it’s not tasty. So, if you crack open a naturally corked bottle and it tastes or smells bad, chances are it’s corked.

There is a chance there’s been too much yeast or bacterial growth. Now, don’t worry, it likely won’t get you sick. It’ll just taste awful.


In conclusion, look out for the taste, color, and smell of a wine you suspect might be bad. Even if you don’t suspect it’s bad, it’s not a bad habit to take a whiff of it to check before you serve it. If you accidentally consume bad wine, don’t freak. It won’t harm you. It’ll just be less than pleasant.