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During my move to a new place, I found a bottle of wine that I had kept in my refrigerator that was dated 2004. It was still sealed; it didn't look like anything was floating around inside, and to all intents and purposes, it looked to be an average bottle of red wine that you'd find at your typical liquor store. However, I'm wondering if it's still any good or not, and if there was a way to check outside of opening it and taking a swig.

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Intents and purposes. –  Zach Aug 29 '11 at 16:09
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Drink it and find out. If you're still sober enough to care afterward, it's gone bad. This might be my time in industry speaking, not good sense. –  BobMcGee Sep 1 '11 at 3:35
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3 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

If you want to make sure your wine is still good without opening the bottle (wine, vinegar or broth), there are some things you can check. This doesn't give you 100% guarantee that the wine is actually any good.

  1. Did the bottle lay horizontally (good) or was it standing up (bad). The wine must be in contact with the cork to hydrate it. This way the seal stays intact and the wine doesn't spoil.

  2. How 'aged' was the wine? Normally a young wine will last about one year (maybe two in the fridge), a reserve or great reserve can last longer. Some wines will mature for 25 years or more.

  3. Check the seal. If it's in good state (no 'dirty' spots), that's good.

  4. Check the cork (without opening the seal). If the cork is pushing the seal out, then your wine may have suffered from heat (the air in the bottle pushes the cork out). This may cause your wine to taste of cork (broth).

  5. Remove the seal and check the cork. If the cork is clean, that's good. If it has red spots (see point 4). If it looks dry... you may have a nice vinegar.

  6. Substances floating in the wine doesn't mean the wine is bad, but you'll need to decant the wine carefully.

But anyway, open the bottle soon. Waiting any longer won't make the wine any better.

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That's the thing about wine. You never know until you taste it. It might be a pleasant surprise or it might be swill. That's actually part of the fun of trying wine.

But generally speaking, if it was nothing special 2004 it won't be better now. Wines that are worth "waiting for" are noticeably outstanding even when they're new (they might need more decanting early in their life).

Just try it... but have a back-up bottle!

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Until you are ready to "take a swig" it doesn't really matter what state it is in "Now". At present it is a perfectly fine mantel piece.

When you are ready to actually drink it, it is either wine or vinegar, but you are going to have to pop the cork (or open the twist top...) to find out. If it is for an important occasion, have a back up bottle in the wine rack.

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