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Feb 1, 2007 09:29 AM

Shelf life of Port and Sherry

This might be a stupid question, but how long does Port or Cream Sherry last once it's been opened? We have a bottle of each that we started and never finished and I'm wondering if I should just toss them. Thanks.

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  1. What *kind* of Porto? What *kind* of Sherry? (It makes a huge difference.)

    Fino Sherries have a very short shelf life. Cream Sherries have a much longer shelf life.

    Porto is an "iffy" propostition in terms of long-term shelf-life, once they're opened.

    Australian fortifieds have a longer shelf-life.

    1. neither will go "off", like an open bottle of wine. the flavors just begin to fade.

      7 Replies
      1. re: hotoynoodle

        Not correct! Once opened, oxidation takes place in Sherry just like wine. For this reason, the Sherry bodegas all recommend drinking Sherry's within a short period of time, from a few days for Fino's and Manzanillas to a couple of weeks for Amontillado.

        Don't believe me? Take it up with my Tio Pepe!

        1. re: bkhuna

          It is totally dependent on the actual Sherry in question. Some are meant to be consumed early and quickly, but others can last like a Port, or Madeiria, if not left open.

          To say Port, and Sherry is far too broad a question. There are great differences in each. So very much depends on the exact wine.


          1. re: zin1953

            But that's just flavor deterioration, they're still good in the sense that they won't make you ill. So really, even though the experts say you should drink them fairly quickly, that's really in reference to how long they maintain the optimum flavor. After that, it's a matter of whether they still taste good to you. If they do, then drink them; if not, toss them.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              That's an important distinction. And, when the sherry's no longer fit for sipping, keep it on hand to spike your mac 'n cheese for that little something extra in complexity. Got that from Darrell Corti. Although one can only dream about what kind of sherry and madeira leftovers he might be hoarding!

              P. S. I've got a third of a bottle of Dios Bacio Amontillado meio seco in the fridge that I'm keeping for cooking.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Ruth, drinking bad wine will *rarely* make you ill, but it won't taste very good . . .

                Darrell's "tip" that Melanie mentions is, of course, a good one, but the question -- I supose -- is whether the OP was talking about the shelf life of these fortified wines as it relates to drinking, or as it relates to cooking. Either way, FWIW, I wouldn't use a long-opened Fino or Manzanilla for anything other than cleaning my drains. This is the category that deteriorates the most quickly and the most dramatically, and a "tired" Fino generally sucks! ;^)

                1. re: zin1953

                  Absolutely correct. However, a Creme Sherry could last (be drinkable without major deteriorations noticable) much longer. I have found it is similar with bottle age for these wines. Some are meant to be consumed very early, upon release, while others show no signs of deterioration with much more time in the botlle.

                  One needs to be very specific, when terms like Port, and Sherry are used - just as you stated in your first reply.


          2. I have a bottle of Sandeman 20 year port. I haven't opened it yet. Does anyone know how long it will last once I do open it? I didn't write the original post, but I'd love to know.

            1 Reply
            1. re: puppymomma

              Older Tawny Porto -- such as a 20-Year Old or, even more so, Colheitas -- will lose a great deal of aromatics relatively quickly. To be generous, let's say -- at home, stored in a cool, dark place after opening -- within two weeks you should be able to see an obvious difference between the "two-week old" opened bottle and one "freshly" opened that night.

              IMHO, it's the aromatics that fade first. What happens to the flavors isn't that they fade so much (although they do lose subtleties), but rather, as the fruit fades, the alcoholic "heat" is more noticable and pronouced.

            2. Some port is cellered for years, so once opened it can be drunk for 4 or 5 weeks without problem. For example a Tawny port can be drunk, and survives well, for over a month.

              A Vintage Port though, should be opened and drunk on the same day. Although its an old wine, tis quality will wane very quickly. Mind you.....I could easily gulp down a 1963 Vintage Port within an afternoon :)

              11 Replies
              1. re: Tboy

                Actually, the tradition was to consume the bottle of Vintage Porto over the weekend -- not oin one evening -- at your country estate with your guests.

                That said, the older the Tawny Porto is, the "shorter" its survival time once opened; the younger the Vintage Porto, the longer it can survive once opened.

                1. re: zin1953

                  Yeah, it took us two evenings to polish off the bottle of '55 Dow we opened for my parents' 50th anniversary. You want to drink it quickly, but you also want to savor it.

                  1. re: zin1953

                    As an example, we opened and decanted a slightly broken vertical of Taylor VP's for an event. I decanted, based on the age of these particular Ports. They were the '63, '70, '77 and '85. At the event, the '70 was handsdown the winner. I kept the decanters stoppered and we returned to them in five days, with four of the people from that event. At that time, the '63 blew everyone away. It had attained its glory. The '77 had faded, while the '70 was now #2. The '85 was really similar to what we had encountered at the event - good, but not great.

                    Now, for the event, the decanting went: '85 first, '77 next, with the '70 not that far behind. I decanted the '63 about 30 mins. before the guests arrived, thinking that as it was the oldest, it would probably die much sooner. Little did I know.

                    Will every house's VP behave exactly the same? I doubt it. Will YOUR Taylor-Fladgate broken vertical behave exactly the same? I do not know. I can only talk about my experience with my bottles of each.


                  2. re: Tboy

                    Are there any 63's left? I can hardly find an 85!

                    1. re: Veggo

                      There are lots of 1963s available -- as well as other vintages -- you just have to know where to look.

                      1. re: zin1953

                        i got a bottle of 63 im saving it for right time

                        1. re: zin1953

                          I often see some listed by K&L. I need to talk to "Uncle Ralph" about filling in my '70s and '77s, as I have devestated too many. Luckily, I still have some '63s in the cellar.


                          1. re: Veggo

                            Some vintages are easier to get than others, and it doesn't necessarily matter how recent it is. The supply depends partly on how many of the port houses declared it a vintage year (they only "declare" a vintage when they have grapes of a certain quality). 1963 was one of the better years of the last century, and most if not all of the port houses produced vintage port that year. In other words, there's a fair amount of it around because there was a lot of it produced. It's also somewhat counterintuitive that, generally the better it is the more there is (because it means the growing conditions that year were close to optimal and because the high quality means it's worth saving). Actually, though, '85 was another widely declared port vintage, and it shouldn't be that hard to get.

                            I just bought a couple of '63s for my sister (her birth year) at an auction, but you can get them from retailers that specialize in high-end wines (two years ago I bought two bottles of '55 -- another great vintage -- for my parents' 50th anniversary -- it was delicious!).

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                              The supply of the '85s has vascillated up and down. Early on, it was hard to find. When it never realized its potential (predicated on the wine writers), it became more accessible. I often see rather large quantities of it. For me, I put down 2 cases of the Taylor-Fladgate, but my wife has loved it from day 1, so I am down to the last few bottles. It may never have realized its potential, but as my lovely wife has enjoyed it, I cannot complain. Hey, it was not the "investment," that I had anticipated, but my wife has benefitted greatly. Maybe that's why she lets me spend the $'s for some other wines... ?


                            2. re: Veggo

                              There IS a place with some '63s. I think that there are a few Cohibas (from some island off of Miami) stored near-by. However, as we all know, my memory is not what it once was, but I think I am correct. All it takes is a few rounds of golf and then an evening free...


                          2. I still don't have the answer I need on shelf life of an open bottle of Sherry. I have a Lustau Solera Reserva Pedro Ximenez San Emilio and have no idea -- again, a rookie -- if it is a Fino, Manzanilla or Amontillado. For how many days will it remain "good" after opening?

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: sherryrookie

                              Ah, a specific wine! Quick answer: you have very little to worry about.

                              Long answer (though far from complete):

                              ALL Sherries are produced from Palomino grapes and age as completely dry wines . . . except Pedro Ximenez (PX) and Moscatel. (More on these two below.)

                              IF a flor (flower) of film yeast develops on the surface of the new wine, it develops into a Fino (if cellared in Jerez), a Manzanilla (if cellared in SanlĂșcar de Barrameda, or a Puerto Fino (if cellared in Puerto de Santa Maria). IF these wines are bottled when young, they are best when only 15.5% in alcohol, and consumed while still fresh. These have the shortest shelf life, and once opened they should be consumed rather quickly.

                              If, however, they are allowed to mature longer, the flor eventually disappates, and the wine evolves into an Amontillado. True Amontillados are completely dry, and stunning.

                              If no flor develops (often because the wine was fortified to 18 percent alcohol, thus killing off any yeast), the result is an Oloroso -- dark, rich, and completely dry.

                              A Cream Sherry is a dry Oloroso that has been sweetened -- traditionally by the addition of PX (but now it is often sweetened with an inferior mistela of Palomino). This was the traditional role of PX, but some has always been bottled on its own. Your bottle of Lustau San Emilio is an example of this.

                              Because of the combination of high alcohol and high sugar, you can keep your PX after opening for quite some time. It's not indestructable, but it's one of the closest wines to being "bulletproof" that there is. It may lose some aromatics over a year, but you'd be hard pressed to notice unless you opened a fresh bottle and tried the two side-by-side.

                              1. re: sherryrookie

                                A PX will live very long, even when opened. Of the various Sherries, it will probably last as long as any other. I'd use a Vacu-vin stopper and stick it in the 'fridge, but you should get weeks our of an opened bottle.

                                Will it change over that time? Yes probably. Will you really notice? Probably not.