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Can I drink a bottle of wine that’s been left open overnight?
While I always recommend re-corking a bottle and placing it in the fridge if you don’t finish it, if you happened to throw the cork away, or simply forgot to re-cork the bottle and left it out on your counter, go ahead and pour yourself a glass. If your hesitation about pouring that glass is because you’re worried about whether or not the wine will “turn” or “expire,” like milk or juice might, have no fear. Drinking wine the next day, or even a few days after originally opening the bottle, isn’t going to hurt you. But depending on the wine, you may not enjoy it as much as you did the night before.
Oxygen is the frenemy of wine. When a bottle is initially opened, and in the minutes or hours that it normally takes you to finish that bottle, oxygen helps to open the wine, breaking down molecules and releasing aromas and flavors for you to enjoy. It is oxygen that’s responsible for what we call a wine’s evolution, which basically just means the way a wine’s flavors and aromas change and either improve or degrade the longer it sits open. But this evolution will always result in the wine becoming vinegar; it’s capturing the wine in the right window of that evolution that makes drinking wine so much fun. Some wines can sit open exposed to oxygen for a long time and continue to evolve and be enjoyable — these are usually wines with a very strong tannin structure — while other wines can start to taste off and vinegar-esque in only a few hours.
So, if you have a wine that you left open on the counter the night before, feel free to give it a try. You may really like what you taste, or you make want to mix it with a bit of oil instead and use it to dress a salad.