The rapid oxide formation on pristine unprotected copper surfaces limits the direct application of Cu nanomaterials in electronics and sensor assemblies with physical contacts. However, it is not clear whether the growing cuprous (Cu2O) and cupric oxides (CuO) and the formation of core-shell-like Cu-Cu2O/CuO nanowires would cause any compromise for non-contact optical measurements, where light absorption and subsequent charge oscillation and separation take place such as those in surface plasmon-assisted and photocatalytic processes, respectively. Therefore, we analyze how the surface potential of hydrothermally synthetized copper nanowires changes as a function of time in ambient conditions using Kelvin probe force microscopy in dark and under light illumination to reveal charge accumulation on the nanowires and on the supporting gold substrate. Further, we perform finite element modeling of the optical absorption to predict plasmonic behavior of the nanostructures. The results suggest that the core-shell-like Cu-Cu2O/CuO nanowires may be useful both in photocatalytic and in surface plasmon-enhanced processes. Here, by exploiting the latter, we show that regardless of the native surface oxide formation, random networks of the nanowires on gold substrates work as excellent amplification media for surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy as demonstrated in sensing of Rhodamine 6G dye molecules.