Does Sherry Go Bad

Tucked in the back of almost everyone’s liquor cabinet is that rogue bottle of sherry that appeared, seemingly by magic. Whether it was a hostess gift or the remnants of a holiday party, the question still remains: does sherry go bad? In this article, we will go through storage, shelf life, freezing and spoilage of sherry one. If you’re interested in at least one of the topics, read on.

How To Store Sherry

You should store sherry pretty much like you store any other wine. That is, as long as it remains unopened, you should keep it in a cool and dry area, away from sunlight and sources of heat. A wine cellar or the pantry are two top choices. Make sure the bottle sits upright to minimize liquid’s exposed area. That ensures the wine oxidizes as slowly as possible. Oxidation, in short, is a process that affects alcohol compounds and causes flavor change. In most cases, the more oxidized the wine, the worse its quality. Of course, wine manufacturers also oxidize the wine, but they do it in a highly controlled manner, and to get specific results.

Fino and Manzanilla Sherry
Image used under Creative Commons from Dominic Lockyer

When it comes to storing sherry wine after opening the bottle, you should seal it tightly with its cork and put into the fridge. Like any other wine, you need to refrigerate sherry. If the cork doesn’t want to fit in, use a wine bottle stopper instead. Another option is to pour the alcohol into a decanter. While decanters aren’t airtight, the seal they provide is quite alright, especially if you will consume the sherry soon. Transferring the leftover sherry into a smaller bottle is yet another option. Either way, make sure the alcohol is sealed and refrigerated.

Can You Freeze Sherry?

Freezing wine can slightly affect its taste and feel. Because of that, it’s a good option mostly if you want to use it for cooking. The good news is sherry works great for cooking, so if you have some leftover sherry and no plans on consuming it anytime soon, freeze it. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Pour sherry into an ice cube tray and put it into the freezer.
  2. Once the cubes freeze, take the tray out of the freezer and transfer the cubes into a freezer bag or container.
  3. Add a label to the bag or container if needed.
  4. Chuck the repacked frozen sherry back into the freezer for long-term storage.

These frozen cubes of sherry are great for throwing directly into sauces, stews, stocks and other cooked dishes where you would use fresh wine. Don’t bother with thawing the cubes, just throw them in onto the pan or into the pot. They will melt in no time.

A glass of sherry wineImage used under Creative Commons from Jonathan Rubio H.

How Long Does Sherry Last

Sherry, like most wines, comes with a best-by date on the package. It’s not an expiration date, but rather information for how long the alcohol will remain at its peak quality. Most types of sherry, excluding some Fino sherries, don’t benefit from aging after being bottled. Depending on how the wine was aged, some sherries remain at their best quality for years, while the quality of others drops significantly within a year or two. The rule of thumb is that pretty much all types of sherry are best if you consume them within a year of the day it was bottled. If it’s a more expensive bottle, check out what kind of sherry is this exactly and if it will remain good for longer.

Once you open the bottle, the clock starts ticking on freshness. Unfortunately, there’s no rule of thumb for how long does sherry last once you uncork the bottle. It, again, depends on the type of sherry. Some types such as Fino and Manzanilla are very fragile and you should drink them within a day or two after opening. Other types are much more forgiving, giving you at least a few weeks up to a few months. If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re not a connoisseur. The sherry you own isn’t a top quality $100+ a bottle one, but much rather something relatively inexpensive, like Harveys Bristol Cream Sherry. If that’s the case, you can safely assume the sherry will stay fine for two to three months in the fridge.

PantryFridge
Unopened Sherry1 year
Opened Sherry3 months

Please note that the dates are for best quality only and apply to most types of cherry. Many types will last much longer, but some are much more fragile. If you own an expensive bottle of sherry, learn what kind is it exactly and how long it can be stored. For some additional information on shelf life of sherry, check out this article.

How To Tell If Sherry Is Bad

Because of the higher alcohol content, it’s easy to forget that sherry is still a wine. That means that once opened, the chemical composition of sherry begins to change pretty rapidly. While the flavors in some sherries are actually produced by oxidation, further exposure can damage even these compounds. The longer sherry remains open, the more flavor compounds are lost, and the blander the drink becomes. If the sherry tastes flat, drinking it is perfectly safe, but not that pleasurable. It will, however, still be viable for cooking or using in salad dressings.

Another unpleasant side effect of sherry that has been opened for too long is a cork that has dried out and crumbled into the bottle. This can be seen as black specks floating in the sherry. Don’t confuse that with any sediment that may be at the bottom. This indicates that the sherry has certainly oxidized. Given that the floating cork bits may have developed mold, you should get rid of the sherry.

There are other reasons the flavor of sherry could change, or seem “off.” Cork taint is a condition that happens to about five percent of corked wine bottles. It occurs from a chemical reaction involving a fungus that grows on cork trees. While not harmful, this can create a musty, moldy cardboard type smell in wine or sherry. Fortunately enough, there’s a way to “fix” wine with cork taint. Line a large bowl with plastic wrap, pour the contents of the bottle over the plastic and stir it a bit. After 45 minutes, the compounds causing this flavor change will stick to the plastic, and the wine may be consumed. For more details on this trick, check out this Los Angeles Times’ article.