There is a general requirement in Europe for all foods having a shelf life of less than 72 weeks, to have an expiry date on their label (“consume preferably before” or “best before”).

We won’t see this on a wine bottle since, almost all wines have a shelf life of more than 72 weeks. One could argue that wine will turn into vinegar if it spoils, and vinegar is still food. This is a simplistic approach as even a wine that has not turned to vinegar but contains a volatile acidity (term used for the acetic acid = vinegar content of wine) higher than the legal limits is considered unfit for consumption.

On the other hand, not every wine packaging (container) is the same. The shelf life of wine in tetra pack, bag-in-box or in small bottles such as those found on aeroplanes (10cl, 12.5cl or even 37.5cl) has a shorter shelf life than that of a wine found in larger bottles. Experts argue that wine ages more efficiently in a larger bottle, as, due to the lower oxygen/wine ratio, it evolves more slowly, resulting in greater complexity. It is universally accepted and scientifically proven that the larger the bottle, the longer the shelf life of a wine.

Another factor to consider is the stopper. A wine behaves differently with a natural cork than with a plastic cork or screw cap. The lifespan and tightness of a good quality natural cork are clearly longer than those of a plastic cork or other synthetic stoppers.

To conclude, I would say that good wines, such as PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) wines, varietal wines and Designation of Origin wines, do not have an expiry date and are therefore correctly marketed without this indication on their label. On the other hand, some wines of lower quality (table wines), bulk wines or wines in smaller packaging, such as those mentioned above, should ideally be labelled with instructions as to when they can be consumed after the date of purchase.

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