Does Sherry Go Bad? The Ultimate Guide

Sherry is a bold wine that originates from Spain. It is one of the finest and most versatile aged wines that range from sweet to creamy. Some types of sherry include Oloroso, Fino, and Manzanilla. 

Sherry is a dry and naturally sweet wine that is fortified. Therefore, it has a more complex flavor and a slightly higher alcoholic content than standard wine. This wine can be enjoyed in mixed beverages or straight from the bottle. 

Cooking sherry is used to add flavor to many recipes. For example, it adds a pleasant nuttiness to pork or poultry dishes and pairs well with seafood. It can also add to soups, stews, and sauces.

The issue with using sherry for cooking is that you’ll open a bottle, use a tablespoon of it, and throw it to the back of the cabinet. Then, in a couple of months, you’ll find the bottle and start to question if it has gone bad or not.

So, does sherry go bad? How long does it last, and how should you store it?

In this article we’ll delve into these questions and more, helping you to enjoy your sherry at its best.

Let’s get started!

Does Sherry Go Bad?

Sherry is a fortified wine, meaning it’s a wine with added alcohol. And technically, wine gets better with age, right? Well, not exactly; there are some exceptions.

Unfortunately, sherry is not invincible.

Over time, sherry loses its flavor, freshness, and vibrancy. The alcohol content of this drink somewhat protects it from going bad, but in general, it is intended to be enjoyed at a young age.

The type, quality, storage, and fullness of the bottle all play a role in how long sherry stays good.

In general, all sherry bottles have the potential to go bad. Your best bet for maintaining your sherry is to keep it unopened and stored properly until you want to drink it.

Fino and Manzanilla sherry should be enjoyed as fresh as possible. That’s because these sherries are considered fragile, so they lose their quality more quickly.

A rule of thumb is if the wine isn’t made specifically for aging, it’s better to drink it fresh than keep it in the pantry as its quality will diminish slowly but surely.  

How Long Does Sherry Last?

Now we know that sherry does lose its quality over time. But, how much time can you keep it for exactly?

How long it lasts depends on several factors, such as the type of sherry, its storage conditions, and whether it’s been opened or not. For example, Manzanilla and Fino sherry are more unstable than other types, meaning they last for a shorter time.

A sherry bottle often comes with a best before date, which indicates the time that the wine retains its peak quality. In general, it’s best to consume your sherry within a year of bottling, but that doesn’t mean it will not last for longer. Just remember that when in doubt, you can always refer to the best before date.

In addition, it is worth mentioning that cooking sherry often has a longer shelf life than wine intended for drinking.

Unopened Bottle

The shelf life of unopened sherry is more stable than when the bottle is unopened. However, the shelf life of unopened wine depends on several factors.

In general, a sealed bottle stored in proper conditions will retain its best quality for between a year and 2 years.

Unopened sherry wines that are naturally dry and light in color, such as Fino and Manzanilla, will last between 12-18 months. The darker and sweeter wines, like Amontillado or Oloroso, can last about 18-36 months. This is, of course, if stored correctly.

The longest-lasting sherry wine is the Pedro Ximenez, which lasts about 24 to 48 months if unopened.

Some people put sherry in the freezer, and in proper conditions, it can last for three years or more. However, we will speak more about freezing sherry later on.

Opened Bottle

Once the sherry bottle is open, things will start to progress faster. Depending on if you store it correctly or not, its shelf life will differ.

In general, a properly stored opened bottle of sherry will last 3 months. This is not true for all kinds of sherry, however. 

How long an open bottle of sherry lasts varies from style to style, brand to brand, and bottle to bottle.

Opening a bottle allows oxygen to enter, so the oxidation process begins. This leads to losses in flavor that ultimately end in the sherry resembling the taste of vinegar. 

Once opened, Fino can last for about a 1 Week, Amontillado 2 – 3 Weeks, Oloroso 4 – 6 weeks, and Pedro Ximénenez around 1 – 2 months. However, if you wait that long, you might get a dull taste.

Fino and Manzanilla should be consumed within a few days after opening, so don’t let them sit in the fridge. 

How to Tell if Sherry Has Gone Bad

Yes, sherry goes bad. The most important thing to do with that information is to learn how to identify when it does. Here’s how to determine if it should be used or tossed. 

If you’ve ever tasted sherry that has gone bad, you know that it’s best to avoid it when possible.

So, start by opening the bottle and giving that sherry a good sniff. If it smells off, then it has probably gone rancid. Also, look at its appearance and identify if it has changed.

If you dare, you can give it a tiny sip to identify if it tastes as bad as it smells. Sometimes, the taste will simply flatten and become dull. The flavor compounds will have changed, leading to a dimmer drink. Over time, the taste could start to become bitter or sour. 

If it fails the tests, it’s best to dispose of the bad wine for quality purposes. In addition, if cork bits are floating inside the bottle, it might be best to get rid of the sherry. The cork bits can grow mold on them. 

If there are sediments at the bottom of the bottle, it is possible that it has oxidized. In other words, the wine has spoiled.

Can You Use Expired Sherry?

I feel bad wasting unfinished food or drinks, so I will often look for safe ways to use them again. Is it possible to do so with sherry?

Good news! You can use expired sherry. Though you might not be too keen on drinking it, you can use it as a cooking wine instead. Despite its altered flavor, it’s still safe for consumption, just not as enjoyable.

You can use your expired sherry in your cooking, salad dressings, marinades, sauces, stir-fries, or desserts.

However, if the sherry is too old and has a horrible taste and smell, it could ruin the taste of a dish. Therefore, you should evaluate what state your wine is in and if you’re willing to use the expired sherry or not.

Can Old Sherry Make You Sick?

The scariest thing about using expired food products is the risk of it affecting our health. That’s why it’s crucial to ensure that using the sherry that has gone bad won’t make you sick.

Despite it tasting flat, old sherry is still safe to consume, but it may not be pleasurable.

Sipping oxidized sherry shouldn’t make you sick. However, it’s still alcohol so you do need to be careful about how much you knock back!

How to Store Sherry

Proper storage of sherry is vital for longer shelf life. Maintaining the quality of a bottle of sherry is as simple as following a few steps.

In general, sherry bottles should be stored in a cool, dark place away from sunlight. The temperature should be stable with no sudden fluctuations, and it should remain in an upright position to minimize the area in which the wine could come in contact with the air and cork.

For extended durability, sherry is best stored in the fridge, especially if opened. The oxidation process of the wine will slow down in cold temperatures.

In addition, make sure to seal it as best as you can. You can use a cork or wine saver to limit the oxidation process and buy time.

Due to cooking sherry’s salt content, some say that it is okay to keep it out of the refrigerator. If unopened, drinking sherry could be stored in a cellar or a cool, dark place.

To double-check, you can check what the label instructs you to do.

Can You Freeze Sherry?

We briefly mentioned that some people freeze sherry. But the question is, can you and should you.

Since sherry has a high alcoholic content, it has difficulty freezing in a standard freezer. In addition, placing it in a freezer can alter the taste, making it unpleasant to drink.

Most wines will lose their quality when frozen due to water crystallization.

So, you’re better off keeping the sherry bottle in the fridge instead of the freezer, especially if you intend on drinking it and not on cooking with it.

If you are insistent on freezing sherry for cooking purposes, make sure to do so correctly.

To do this, pour the contents of the bottle into ice cube trays but avoid overfilling them. Then, put them in the freezer until they become solid. Next, put the cubs in a freezer-safe resealable plastic pouch. You can then simply add them to the dish you’re cooking as you need them.