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Is my 13-year-old Italian white safe to drink?

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A client gave me a 13-year-old bottle of white Italian wine they bought on their honeymoon in Italy. It has been stored in a liquor cabinet since. Would it still be safe to drink?

It's impossible to say for certain without knowing the name of the wine. But, sorry to be a bad-news bearer, it's likely your gift is going to taste less than delicious.

The vast majority of Italian white wines are meant to be consumed in their youth, typically within three years of the date on the label. To your specific point, it's not likely to harm you, though.

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The fatal problem is your storage strategy. Room temperature is fine for a few weeks or even a couple of months for most wines. But, over the long haul, it will encourage the chemical reactions that age and, eventually, degrade fermented fruit juice. It's like keeping lettuce on the counter rather than the in the fridge, only not nearly as dramatic.

The flavour is likely to be unpleasantly nutty or stale, though errant bacteria may also produce a vinegar-like taste. Have a look at the wine's colour, assuming it's in a transparent bottle. Has it darkened over the years? That would mean too much oxygen has seeped through the cork, which is porous, oxidizing it the way air turns apple flesh brown. But even wine protected under the perfect seal of a screw-cap will eventually wilt due to the excess heat of a warm room.

Had the vino been stored in a cold cellar, it might even be reasonably enjoyable today, and I'd be happy to join you in a glass for my own edification. But, again, it depends on the style of the wine in question.

Have a wine question?

E-mail your wine and spirits questions to Beppi Crosariol. Look for answers to select questions to appear in the Wine & Spirits newsletter and on The Globe and Mail web site.

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About the Author
Life columnist

Beppi Crosariol writes about wine and spirits in the Globe Life and Style sections.He has been The Globe's wine and spirits columnist for more than 10 years. In the late 1990s, he also wrote a food trends column called The Biting Edge.Beppi used to cover business law for ROB and previously edited the paper's weekly technology section. More

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