Like ripe avocados and Joba Chamberlain, open wine goes downhill fast. At first, the decline is subtle. Aromas become less intense, and fruit flavors that originally jumped out of the glass lose their hops in a hurry. After that, things start to spiral, and the wine begins to smell more like vinegar than vermentino. So the $64,000 question (or $20 question if that’s more your speed) is: when exactly does all this happen? And the answer is: it depends on the type of wine.
Pretty much all wines start to lose their brightness the day after they’re opened, but sparkling wines have the added knock of losing their bubbles as well. In other words, you should polish off that bottle of Champagne the night you open it. Rich white wines also don’t have a lot of longevity. Because grape varieties like chardonnay tend to be exposed to oxygen during winemaking, they oxidize relatively quickly once opened, and start to taste more and more like bruised apples. That means you’ll have the enviable task of finishing that White Burgundy before the end of the weekend. Red wines fare a bit better, and ones with high tannin and acidity, like nebbiolo or cabernet sauvignon, can make it for three to five days in the fridge. Crisp white wines like Muscadet or Sancerre can last even longer, sometimes remaining quite drinkable for a week after they’re opened.
As you might remember from your Bill Nye days, chemical reactions slow down at lower temperatures. Therefore, storing your re-corked bottle in the fridge will help delay its inevitable decline. But even fridges and vacuum pumps won’t be enough for some natural wines. Without added sulfites, which are antioxidants (preventing oxidation) and antiseptics (preventing spoilage), some natural wines can be quite unstable, causing them to turn in a matter of hours rather than days.