Is it Safe to Drink Old Wines?

11th October 2022

Can you drink old wine

Whenever I get asked this question I usually respond with no – It is not safe to drink any old wines and you should instead carefully package any unopened bottles and post them to me so I can dispose of them safely for you. Joking aside, I hope by this you know that the answer to this question is in fact yes, you can safely enjoy many old wines, though we should also take into consideration some important points.

Old wines and especially for me, Champagnes, can in fact improve with age (especially vintage labels) depending on the style of wine that you enjoy. Old wines of a long ago vintage are highly desirable both for collectors and thirsty consumers / wine lovers – though not all wines will benefit from age, those which do can command high prices which is why many invest in wine today.

The best way to look at old wine being safe or not is to consider that if what was put in the bottle was safe to drink then so long as it was stored correctly it will be safe whenever you decide to open it. Have you ever noticed a sale by date or best before date on a bottle of wine?

Reasons why a bottle of unopened wine might not be safe to drink:

  • Counterfeit: Is the wine original? Unfortunately, because of the value of old and collectable wines, there are many counterfeit bottles out there filled with goodness knows what!
  • Seal: Is the seal, mostly likely the cork / cap, in fine condition in that it hasn’t allowed air to enter / leave the bottle or is there any leakage of wine itself?
  • Storage: Even if a wine is relatively young in age, poor storage can degrade the quality very quickly. It is likely to effect aroma and flavours qualities.

Now by safe I am looking at the wine performing in at least an acceptable standard. If the wine has gone bad, corked, then the performance qualities will be low and quite possibly drinking of it could give one a stomach ache, heartburn, headaches or worse – If you are not sure about a wine then you are always best to reject it or pour it away (you will thank me for this). Cardboard, mushroom, high acidity, sour, vinegar and more are aromas and flavours that can present themselves to you when your wine has gone bad. Are old wines likely to be poisonous? No!

Leaking cork on a wine bottle

Leaking cork on a wine bottle


Aged wines are mostly likely to go ‘bad’ due to the reaction with the cork / cap and those wines under these closure methods that are many years old are most likely to be prone to performing poorly – A wine will not react with the glass from the bottle and especially for traditional sparkling wine, ageing wines will take place with capsules until it’s time for disgorging / adding the cork.

Christopher Walkey

Co-founder of Glass of Bubbly. Journalist and author focused on Champagne & Sparkling Wines and pairing them with foods.