Does Marsala Wine Go Bad?

Marsala wine is a fortified wine that was developed in Italy – more specifically, in Sicily. It’s most commonly used as a cooking wine to create rich, caramelized sauces. It’s made with local white and red grapes and supplemented with brandy. 

Aside from marsala sauce recipes, this cooking wine has a huge amount of uses in the kitchen. From savory dishes such as veal marsala and chicken marsala to desserts such as Zabaglione or this ricotta cheesecake, it’s a super versatile red wine.

If you use marsala cooking wine on occasion, you might be wondering whether the old bottle in your cupboard has gone bad. Can marsala even go bad? Let’s find out. 

Does Marsala Wine Go Bad?

A bottle of marsala wine can, indeed, go bad. However, with wine, the idea of “going bad” isn’t the same as when leftover food goes bad.

Wine, in general, won’t go moldy and won’t make you sick if you drink it after it’s gone bad.

Instead, it goes bad in the sense that its quality and flavor suffer. Essentially, it goes bad aesthetically, as it loses some of its appeals. 

How Long Does Marsala Wine Last?

Marsala wine has an undetermined shelf life. In fact, some people swear that their bottles of marsala have lasted years. Others claim that theirs have gone bad within a few months –  both opened and unopened. 

Opened Bottle

Once a bottle of marsala has been opened, it will remain fresh for, on average, 4-6 months

After this time, it will begin to lose its scent and flavor. This degradation happens gradually. You can help prevent it by storing your leftover marsala wine in an appropriate location.

You should also remove as much of the oxygen as you can from inside the bottle before storing it. This can be done using a wine preserver. These handy tools are designed to suck the oxygen out of opened bottles of wine.

Unopened Bottle

If you purchase high-quality marsala or marsala that has been commercially bottled, it can last, unopened, for an indefinite amount of time. On average, though, unopened marsala lasts anywhere from 2-6 years

This is because it’s fortified, which means it contains a high concentration of alcohol that allows it to be stored for a very long time when unopened and sealed.

This being said, storing an unopened marsala incorrectly can harm its shelf life, so it’s important to store it properly. 

A Word on Quality

A cheap marsala that has been left unopened will last longer than a high-quality marsala that has been opened. However, it won’t last as long as a high-quality marsala that has been left unopened. In addition, it’s also worth noting that the sweeter the marsala is, the longer it will last. 

How To Tell If Marsala Wine Has Gone bad

In general, the best way to tell if leftover marsala wine has gone bad is by examining its scent, color, and taste. 

Marsala that has gone bad is likely going to have a sharp, vinegar-like scent that is very unpleasant to the nose. It might change color, dulling or changing shades. When it comes to taste, which is the last test we’d encourage you to put your old marsala through, the marsala is likely bad if it tastes flat or lacks flavor altogether. 

The taste test should only be administered when you’ve both sniffed and examined the marsala with your eyes and are still unable to determine whether your marsala is still good to be used. Should your marsala fail any of these tests, it’s best to discard it, as bad marsala will change the way mixed drinks and sauces taste. 

One other test you can do to check the status of your marsala is the residue test. This test involves pouring some marsala into a wine glass and checking for residue on the glass. FInding residue indicates that the wine has started to ferment, which means that its chemical makeup has started to change. 

Why Does Marsala Go Bad?

There are three main factors that play into the quality of marsala over a period of time, whether that be a short period of time or a long one. These factors are oxygen, sunlight, and temperature – specifically warm temperatures.

When regular wine, including marsala, is exposed to sunlight, it’s color will start to change. This also indicates and hints toward a gradual change in flavor. 

Flavor changes are also commonly due to oxygen exposure, which is something that can never be completely avoided once you crack the seal of a bottle of wine. 

Temperature affects marsala, too, as the molecules within it are affected by heat. Subtle external temperature fluctuations can cause it to react and its flavor to become altered. 

Best Way To Store Marsala Wine

Marsala should be stored in a cool, dry place.

This could mean a downstairs basement, a wine cellar, or a cupboard. Or, it could mean being stored in the fridge. It can be kept lying down or standing up and these guidelines don’t change whether the wine is open or unopened.

It should be kept away from sunlight and warm temperatures, as both affect the quality of the wine. As a rule of thumb, the darker and cooler the location, the better of a place it is for you to store your marsala. 

You can also store your marsala in the freezer. Keep in mind, though, that it won’t freeze completely solid as it has a high level of alcohol, which has a freezing point that is much higher than what the average household freezer can achieve. 

If you can, regardless of where you’re storing your wine, store your bottle with as much liquid in it as possible. When storing a bottle, the more liquid you have, the less room there is for oxygen to sit at the top of the bottle and degrade your wine. 

Can You Use Expired Marsala Wine?

You can use expired marsala wine. The question is, though, do you want to?

Marsala that has expired has likely been opened or has been sitting for years. Unopened wine may have undergone very minimal changes, meaning that using it could, in theory, be just fine.

If it has been opened and has expired, chances are that it’s undergone drastic changes in both flavor and scent. 

In both cases, you could still use it as it won’t make you sick. However (especially in the case of an opened bottle), it does increase the chances of whatever you’re making with your expired marsala tasting funny.