Organic Champagne is a drink for everyone and for all occasions. It comes bone-dry, dry, medium-dry and even a touch sweet. You will find it white and rosé and sometimes with a vintage on the label but often not. So, as much as it is fun to drink, Champagne can sometimes be a little confusing!
First: How best to store champagne
Will my Champagne go off or go bad? Will the bubbles vanish? Will it get better over time?
No, no and in some cases, yes!
An unopened bottle of Champagne has surprising ageing potential, even the non-vintage wines. At a minimum every non-vintage Champagne must have been aged in the bottle for a minimum of 15 months before it is released onto the market. In practice, it is often a lot longer. Although Champagnes are put on sale when they are ready for drinking, a few months more in the bottle, in a dark, cool spot can often add a little more character to the wine. A Champagne certainly won’t go bad in that time.
Left for over a year or more and you are likely to experience a Champagne that has deepened in colour. Should you leave a Champagne longer and longer still you will probably have less of a ‘pop’ when you open your bottle as the cork will have shrunk, the pressure dropped and the bubbles diminished… but you are still likely to have a very drinkable wine.
The Champenoise love to tell the tale of the shipwrecked Jönköping that spent 82 years in the Baltic sea at more than 200 feet below the surface. When the ship was recovered, the cargo was found to include thousands of bottles of Champagne from 1907. As it turned out, the bottles had survived with impressive freshness and effervescence. The corks had remained airtight, keeping the marine bacteria at bay. Added to which the pressure under water at that depth had help to sustain the pressure inside the bottles and it is this pressure that is key to the wine’s mousse (bubbles).
Which Champagnes have the best cellaring potential?
Just like still wine, some Champagnes will improve with bottle age. Non-vintage Champagnes are normally a blend of grapes grown in different years. These Champagnes are ‘ready-to-drink’ at the get-go and will sustain bottle ageing but are less likely to evolve in a way that sees them increase in complexity. A vintage Champagne meanwhile is made in only the best years, from one single year, and the wines are aged for longer (sometimes as long as ten years) before being released for sale. You would be right to expect that a vintage Champagne would be a step-up from a non-vintage and would have more depth of flavour, greater concentration and complexity and an impressive length. It is the structure of these wines that lends them to perform better in time and tastings of long-term cellared vintage Champagnes can show them to retain impressive life and freshness, decades after they were originally bottled.
To give your un-opened bottled of Champagne the best chance, leave it on its side in a quiet, cool, dark place. It is as simple as that!
I can’t finish the bottle… Will my Champagne go bad if I leave it until tomorrow?
No, your Champagne will not go ‘bad’ but what will happen is that the bubbles will rapidly vanish. The best way to prevent this is to buy a pressurised stopper that you can use (a little like a cork) to reseal the bottle. Keeping the Champagne in the fridge is another must!
Perhaps a more economical solution is to buy your bubbly by the half bottle…!
Serving & Drinking Champagne
Happily, this is the easy part!
Cool to between 8 and 10 ºC (that’s about 3 to 4 hours in the fridge or a half hour dunk in an ice bucket) and open… Which is best done by pointing the bottle away from yourself (and your guests) and then removing the foil and wire whilst keeping a firm hold of the cork. Then, keep holding the cork and rotate the bottle so that the cork slides out and the pour!
Is there sugar in Champagne?
Yes! Sugar is almost always added to Champagne. For organic and biodynamic Champagne the sugar has to be organic too. Champagne is made by going through two fermentations. The first turns the grapes into still wine, then sugar is added (known as the ‘dosage’) to start the second fermentation, which produces the bubbles. The most common style of Champagne is Brut, which has a maximum of 12 grams of sugar per litre (g/l). Extra Brut is becoming increasingly common, in part due to climate change in the Champagne region. This style has less than six g/l of sugar. Brut Nature, or Dosage Zero contain less than three g/l of sugar. Off-dry styles include Extra Dry and Sec which have 12-17 g/l and 17-32 g/l, respectively. Demi-Sec and Doux are sweeter styles which contain 32-50 g/l and over 50 g/l.
Champagne Faust – Stylish organic Champagne with a soft mousse. Fantastic value.
Champagne Faust Cuvée Speciale – Richer blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from this pioneer producer in the Marne region.
Champagne Fleury Blanc de Noirs – Enduringly popular Champagne from one of the best producers.
Champagne Fleury Rosé – Breathtakingly elegant; inarguably excellent with fish.
Champagne Fleury Bolero Vintage Extra Brut – Masterpiece vintage Champagne. Ready to drink now but will keep for years to come.