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Is Old Wine Safe to Drink?



I get this question all the time. A person finds a bottle of wine stashed in a back attic corner or in the basement. It's from 1950 or some earlier year. They are curious to try the wine - but want to know if it will poison them or something.

The simple answer is DRINK IT. People have bottles of wine that have been saved since the 1920s or even before that, that they treasure and drink on special occasions. Wine is an alcohol. The alcohol keeps bacteria and other nasty things from growing in it. You are generally safe in drinking it.

A separate question is will you ENJOY drinking the wine. Only certain wines were meant to age. Most wines are NOT meant to age. If you have a "touristy bottle" like a Chianti-in-a-basket or a Portuguese-wine-in-a-basket, those were never sold because they were tasty in the first place. They were sold as decorations, really. White Zinfandels were meant to be drunk immediately, not even aged for more than a year. There is a gigantic percentage of wine bottles that go old in a year or two, never mind decades.

Even for wines that were meant to age - say fine Burgundies or Bordeaux wine - they only age well when stored properly. They need to be at an even, cool temperature. They need to be on their side, so the cork doesn't dry out and let in air. They need to be kept away from sunlight. You could have the most perfect bottle of wine for aging and still have it taste awful because of bad storage conditions.

Still, even if the wine was ruined, it won't kill you. It'll just taste like vinegar.

So I say - open the bottle! Have a fun party and see what you get. Even if it's not tasty, it's still an adventure to taste a wine from that era.

On a related note, people are always asking "what is this wine worth?" The only thing a wine is worth is what someone will pay for it. Few people will pay for an old bottle that they cannot guarantee has been stored well. It's most likely vinegar. That being said, when people buy a bottle signed by Thomas Jefferson, they don't care what it tastes like. It's a collector's item. So it all depends if your bottle is a cool collector's item that someone wants, or if it's just an old bottle of vinegar that people are not interested. If you really want to know, call Christie's auction house up and ask!

Selling Wine
How Much is my Old Wine Bottle Worth?


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