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I have a bet going with my father-in-law as to just how long some reds can last after being opened. Can you help settle the score? Could some wines maintain their lustre for more than three days, or even a week?

Don't quote me in any illicit gambling scheme if the authorities come knocking. Three days is a good, though very rough, average. Some can indeed last longer.

Several factors are at play here. First is the quality of the wine. Lighter reds, such as gamay and pinot noir (including red Burgundy), tend to decline quickly. I find most day-old gamays and pinot noirs as appealing as day-old doughnuts. That's mainly because they contain fewer tannins, the antioxidant compounds that protect them from corrosive contact with oxygen. Full-bodied - and usually more tannic - reds such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah can retain their pleasant flavours considerably longer. I've kept rich cabernets and syrahs on the counter for up to a week and they've tasted fine - some even better than when first opened, because oxygen initially can soften a harsh, youthful red and make it more approachable.

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These are gross generalizations. The longevity of an opened bottle depends greatly on the overall quality and concentration, too. A great red Burgundy can blossom after four or five days with exposure to a bit of air - but I have to stress the word "great," as in a $90-plus grand cru.

It also depends strongly on how much wine is left in the bottle. The higher the fill (and thus smaller the air pocket), the longer the wine will last.

Another big factor is temperature. The fridge is a better place than your counter to store opened wine, whether it's white or red. Lower temperatures slow down the chemical reactions that spoil wine. A good, half-finished cabernet can survive nicely for up to two weeks in the fridge. Just make sure to pull your red wines from the fridge a good hour or so before serving. Fridge-temperature reds taste lousy.

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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