You open a bottle of wine, and something just seems off, maybe the wine is a bit corked, or it’s simply past its prime, the wine may even have a reddish brown hue to it, indicating its age. Regardless of what’s wrong with it, you decide to drink it anyway – hey, it may be the only bottle you have around, and we understand that desperate times call for desperate measures. No matter why you decided to drink it, drink it you do, but after a few sips in, the absence of fruit flavors and the musty smell starts to make you wonder “is this stuff going to make me go blind?” Let us ease your fears: it won’t.

While wine can have things that are wrong with it in terms of taste and aroma, such as cork taint or that nasty over-oxidation that can make a wine taste and smell like stewed prunes, consuming the wine isn’t going to do you much harm. You may develop a little nausea, but the culprit for that is most likely your head, as we humans are often guilty of convincing ourselves we’ve done something to make us sick, even when in all likelihood the drink we’ve consumed has done nothing of the sort.

The reason we can safely assume the actual wine is not going to make us sick, regardless of how off it tastes, is thanks to the same compound inside the wine that makes us enjoy it in the first place: alcohol. As a wine gets older, or starts to lose its luster, while it may not taste that great, the alcohol inside acts as a natural preservative, protecting the juice from developing any of those nasty bacterias that might actually do us harm. Think about it, all vinegar is is old wine that continued to age to the point that it converted into a substance that’s tastier when whisked with a bit of olive oil and poured on our salads than poured into a glass. It doesn’t make you sick.

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grannyThe same is true for those old bottles of liquor you may find at the bottom of your grandparents closet, leftover from an all-night card game played sometime in the 1950s. While we don’t advocate heading over to the nearest senior center and asking if you can raid the residents’ storage lockers for their decades-old leftovers, if you were to do such a thing, the alcohol inside would ensure that consuming the booze wouldn’t make you sick, though your overconsumption of it certainly would.

So if you find yourself with an old bottle of liquor, an off-bottle of wine, or you don’t seem to realize the wine is corked until you reached the bottom of your glass, fear not, consuming the substance won’t hurt, it just may not taste that great. And hey, if you’re feeling guilty about dumping an old bottle down the drain, you can always make a punch or sangria. There’s still alcohol inside it after all, and the sugars will help mask the off flavors – but again, you should only do this if you’re really desperate.

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