How Long Does Dessert Wine Last?

Gianluca Barsavi
Gianluca Barsavi
Published August 19th, 2022

Wine is a beautiful beverage, not only because it comes in various styles and colors, but because it offers endless flavors and aromas. Wine is a well-rounded experience. Wine is also the only fermented beverage worth aging and is often more attractive after a few months, years and even decades.

How Long Does Dessert Wine Last.

Of course, to age wine, you must know how long every wine style really lasts. In fact, knowing how long wine last is valuable, even if you’re not planning to build a wine collection. You get to drink it in its prime.

If one wine style has a longer shelf-life than others, that’s sweet wine. So, how long does dessert wine last? How do you store dessert wine? Let’s talk about sweet wine and how to take care of it. 

Sweet wine, AKA dessert wine, is long-lived. Why? First, sugar is a natural preservative. That jar of jam in your pantry can last months, and it’s because high amounts of sugar protect food and beverages from microorganisms.

Of course, dessert wine is more than sugar; it contains two other preservatives — acidity and alcohol. The combination results in wine that can withstand the test of time! How long can dessert wine last? How about how to store open dessert wine? Let’s find out. 

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How Long Can Dessert Wine Stay Open?

If you were wondering how long can dessert wine stay open, here’s what you need to know. Unopened wine bottles have long shelf lives. The cork (or any other stopper) keeps wine’s number one enemy at bay — oxygen.

When wine is in contact with air, it oxidizes, and the transformation is relatively quick. Any bottle of wine goes sour after a few days. On the other hand, sweet wine tends to hold its ground against oxidation a bit better. Still, any bottle of wine, dry or sweet, starts to taste different after 3-5 days; that if you store it in the fridge. 

This leads us to the next question. How long does dessert wine last in the fridge? If you reseal your bottle of wine, preferably with an air-tight stopper fitted with a vacuum pump, the wine will still be in perfect shape after 7-10 days. 

As a rule of thumb, store your opened bottle of sweet wine in the fridge, sealed with a vacuum-sealed stopper, and enjoy it within 5-7 days.

After that, the wine will still be drinkable and most probably enjoyable, but it will show signs of oxidation — think of scents of roasted nuts, chamomile and sherry. Even worse, it might start turning into vinegar!  

Not all dessert wines are created equal, though. Some sweet wine styles can be stored for longer. Let’s talk about each wine style. 

Sparkling Dessert Wines

As you probably know, sparkling wine comes in all sweetness levels. Brut styles are dry, while Demi-sec examples can be pleasingly sweet. So how long does dessert wine last in the sparkling wine department? 

You can store all sparkling wines for long periods. Since the wine is bottled under pressure, there’s little chance for air to damage the wine. As long as you store your bottles of sparkling wine under the right conditions (see below), you can enjoy them for at least five years after the vintage. Sweet versions last even longer!

Wines in this category include: 

  • Moscato d’Asti, Italy

  • Asti Spumante

  • Demi-Sec Champagne

  • Demi-Sec Cava

  • Demi-Sec Prosecco

  • Other Demi-Sec, Dolce or Moelleux wines

How long can sparkling wine be stored in the fridge after opening?

That’s another story. Once opened, sparkling wine is exposed to air, and it will oxidize in a few days. The wine will also lose its effervescence. Your safest bet is topping your opened bottle with a special sparkling wine bottle stopper, which comes with clamps. The unique design prevents the pressure inside the bottle from popping out the stopper. You can still enjoy the wine after 3-5 days.

Lightly Sweet Dessert Wines

Not all dessert wines are overly sweet. Some are pleasingly sweet, with just a few grams of residual sugar. These wines are fantastic stand-alone sippers, especially if served chilled.

Most of these sweet wines are made with late harvest grapes. Still, remember that the grapes used to make these wines are also used to make dry wine. For example, a bottle of Riesling, Viognier or Gewürztraminer can be dry or sweet, so read the label consciously. Other grapes, like Moscato, are almost always guaranteed to be at least lightly sweet. 

Wines in this category include: 

  • Late Harvest wines, worldwide

  • Moscato, California

  • Viognier, worldwide

  • Gewürztraminer, Alsace, Washington, others

  • Moscatel, Spain 

  • Riesling, Australia, California, Washington, Germany, Austria and others.

  • White Zinfandel, California

How long does a dessert wine last in this category after opening?

If stored in the fridge, lightly sweet dessert wines are best enjoyed between 5-7 days before noticing deterioration. The sweeter the wine, the longer it will be drinkable. 

Richly Sweet Dessert Wine

The sweetest wines on the planet are also the most age-worthy. These authentic liquid desserts have high amounts of sugar and acidity. 

To make these wines, producers must use rare winemaking techniques, including freezing the grapes, allowing the “noble rot” to infect them, or drying them on straw mats before turning them into wine. These wines are often expensive, but they’re luscious and celebratory. You can store unopened bottles of richly sweet wine for decades. 

Wines in this category include: 

How long can you store richly sweet dessert wine in the fridge after opening?

If tightly sealed, ideally with a vacuum pump and an air-tight stopper, you can enjoy overly sweet dessert wines for several weeks and up to a month before noticing signs of oxidation. These wines last long for their insane sugar levels and high acidity. 

Sweet Red Wine

Although rare, sweet red wines exist. Not to be confused with red wines with a sweet nose but a dry palate; dessert red wines have residual sugar. Italians are particularly fond of sweet red wine, and they often make it fizzy. 

Wines in this category include: 

  • Lambrusco, Italy (frizzante)

  • Brachetto d’Acqui, Italy (frizzante)

  • Recioto della Valpolicella, Italy

  • Sparkling Shiraz, Australia

  • Dornfelder Demi Sec, Germany

How long can you store sweet red wine in the fridge after opening?

Enjoy between 5-7 days if sealed properly. Sparkling versions might lose their effervescence within 2-3 days. 

Fortified Wine

Fortified wines are amongst the sweetest wines on earth. To make them, producers stop fermentation on its tracks with a splash of grape spirit, which kills the sugar-munching yeast. The result is high-alcohol wine with lots of natural sweetness. 

This wine style has fallen out of fashion; after all, they were insanely popular a century ago. Still, the category is coming back in full force with the new generation of curious wine drinkers. 

Wines in this category include: 

  • Port, Portugal

  • Madeira, Portugal

  • Moscatel de Setubal, Portugal

  • P.X. Sherry, Spain

  • Banyuls, France 

  • Maury, France

  • Marsala, Italy

  • Cape Port, South Africa

  • Rutherglen Muscat, Australia

How long can you store sweet red wine in the fridge after opening?

Fortified wine can be enjoyed for several weeks and up to a month if stored properly, but you will eventually notice a loss of freshness and the presence of oxidation. These wines last longer for their high alcohol content. 

How Do You Store Dessert Wine Unopened.

How Do You Store Dessert Wine Unopened?

These are the general rules to store wine safely regarding temperature, light and angle. 

Temperature. The best temperature for storing wine for long periods is between 10-16°C (50-61°F).

Can dessert wine be stored in the fridge?

A domestic refrigerator maintains a stable temperature of around 4°C (39°F) — fridge temperature is suitable for storing dessert wine for a few days. After a few weeks, the cork will dry out. 

Light. Store sweet wine, and any other bottle of wine, for that matter, away from direct sunlight, ideally in a dark or dim-lit cellar. Light damages the wine, especially if stored for long periods. Dark bottles protect their content better; sadly, most dessert wines come in clear bottles. 

Angle. Fortified wines are best stored straight up on a shelf or counter. This wine style is often fitted with a cork stopper and a plastic cap, and leaks can (and will) happen if stored on its side. 

Regular sweet wine and most sweet red wines are best stored at an angle, ensuring the cork is always moist. This might prevent the cork from drying out and becoming crumbly. Dry corks can allow oxygen to find its way into the bottle.


How long a bottle of dessert wine can last if properly stored?

How long does dessert wine keep? That depends on the type of dessert wine. How long can dessert wine last? Some bottles of sweet wine are still enjoyable after several decades, if stored correctly. 100-year-old bottles of dessert wine are not unheard of!

How long dessert wine lasts depends on many variables, including how you take care of your wine bottles. The good news? Every get-together and dinner party is an excellent opportunity to open a bottle of sweet wine, so you don’t have to worry too much about storing that sweet nectar for too long!