Champagne: A guide to storing, ageing, drinking and serving
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, especially when it comes to ageing Champagne! So let’s dive into the dos and don’ts of ageing this precious sparkling wine.
What we’ll cover in this blog post:
- How to store champagne at home
- Does champagne get better with age?
- Which Champagnes age the best?
- Does aged Champagne go off or bad?
- Recommended Organic Champagnes
Note, you can click on these links above to be taken directly to their sections in this blog post.
Now let’s get started on storing and ageing Champagne.
First: How to store champagne at home
If you plan on drinking your Champagne immediately (within 3-4 days), simply store it in the fridge or at 7-10 ºC ideally until you’re ready to drink it.
However, if you don’t plan on drinking it immediately, you can keep your Champagne in a cool place. If you’re storing your Champagne at home, here are three things to remember:
- Keep your bottles away from bright light
- Try to store your Champagne in a cool place where the temperature is constant
- Magnums have longer ageing potential
If you’re storing your Champagne for just a few months, it’s ok to leave your bottles standing up – just make sure they are away from bright light.
If you’re storing them longer, store them on their sides in a wine rack or stacked the same way as in a Champagne cellar if you can. If you keep your Champagne upright for a long period of time, you run the risk of having the cork dry out and the wine spoiling.
Ageing Champagne: Does champagne get better with age? Is it ok to age Champagne?
Does Champagne get better with age? Champagne can age well, and whether or not it gets ‘better’ depends on the quality of the Champagne in the first place, the storage conditions and your preferences too. Champagne can indeed be stored 5-10 years and beyond. Generally speaking vintage Champagnes are made in the best years and perform better over time – even decades after they were originally bottled.
With Champagne, it can be useful to think about how the flavours and textures change over time. In their youth, they will be more fizzy, with fresh citrus character. With more time in the bottle, the bubbles will become softer and the flavours may develop more biscuity, yeasty flavours. This is why vintage Champagnes, which are aged for longer at the winery, usually have a richer flavour.
Many of the vintage organic Fleury Champagnes we stock age really well (especially in top vintages) for 30+ years. We still have some from 1993 that are still fantastic! If you’re looking to buy an organic vintage Champagne that will age well, try the award-winning Fleury Bolero Extra Brut 2009 Vintage Champagne. It’s aged to perfection and ready to drink now, or over the next five years.
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 helped to sustain the pressure inside the bottles and it is this pressure that is key to the wine’s mousse (bubbles).
Ageing Champagne: Which Champagnes have the best cellaring potential? Which Champagnes age the best?
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 some limited bottle ageing. For NV Champagnes, it can be pretty beneficial to age for a year or two, to improve complexity and depth of flavour 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 unopened bottled of Champagne the best chance, leave it on its side in a quiet, cool, dark place. It is as simple as that!
Ageing Champagne: Will my Champagne go off or go bad? Will the bubbles vanish 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, some 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 thus there may be less fizziness … but you are still likely to have a very drinkable wine. Some people really do love the yeasty, biscuity flavours that can develop with an aged Champagne – it really depends on preferences.
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!
Or another solution is to buy your bubbly by the half bottle…!
Recommended Organic Champagnes
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.
How to Serve Champagne & Drink Champagne
Happily, this is the easy part!
To serve Champagne: Cool to between 7 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.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide all about ageing and storing Champagne. To keep learning about Champagne or other sparkling wines, feel free click through to our sparkling wine blogs here.