How long should I keep champagne?
Those of you who have visited the Champagne region will have seen the many miles of underground tunnels carved out of the chalk where there’s high humidity, little light, no disturbance and where the temperature is a constant 100 C all year round; in short, the perfect conditions for storing champagne for many years.
Back home most of us don’t have the same facilities for keeping wine, so the first piece of advice shouldn’t surprise you: don’t keep your champagne too long!
The issue of storing champagne can be quite a complicated question, so, for now, Let’s just say that the longer you keep champagne, the greater the chances you’ll be disappointed when you eventually open it, so to be safe don’t keep it more than a few months or a year at most, unless you’ve got a great cellar.
Where to keep champagne
The actual temperature at which you store champagne is less important than the fluctuation in temperature, so keep your champagne in a spot that doesn’t have too much variation in temperature – next to the oven is not a good idea.
Champagne will keep very well for several weeks in the fridge and when you do this you always have a bottle ready to open whenever the opportunity presents itself.
If you’ve got a bottle in the fridge you won’t be tempted to pop a bottle in the freezer to cool down. This is not a great idea; apart from the risk that you’ll forget it, the rapid change in temperature is not good for a wine.
Believe it or there is such a thing as gout de lumiere or taste of light, so store you champagne away from intense lights and be wary of bottles under spotlights in retail stores.
It used to be the case that champagne had to be stored horizontally so that the cork stayed moist and didn’t dry out, thus letting air into the bottle and spoiling the wine. However, the quality of the cork has improved in recent years and now it doesn’t matter whether you store the bottle horizontal or vertical.
All the wonderful imagery surrounding champagne means that it’s the perfect wine for celebrations and this usually means a group of people together and when you’re entertaining friends why not serve champagne from magnums?
You usually get about 6 glasses from a normal bottle and by the time everyone has had a second glass two bottles will soon disappear, so why not start with magnums in the first place?
Magnums not only look impressive and add to the ambiance, but there’s a very important advantage in that they age more slowly than a normal size bottle, so when you buy a magnum the champagne inside is richer and rounder than a standard bottle.
Try it and I’m sure you’ll agree.
A magnum is slightly more expensive than 2 bottles because bottles are made in hundreds of millions and are cheap to produce, whilst magnums are made in far smaller quantities and there are no economies of scale.
It’s not necessary to chill the glasses. If the champagne isn’t cold already a cold glass won’t be enough to cool it down; besides, a frosted glass doesn’t show the colour of the champagne and you can’t see the beautiful bubbles rising up the glass ( this is what is sometimes referred to as the bead ).
Don’t fill the glass more than about 2/3 full. It’s better to top up the glass more frequently. This is especially true in summer when the champagne will have warmed before some people have finished their glass.
Last, never use rinse aid when washing champagne glasses. It leaves a film on the inside of the glass that prevents any bubbles forming. The best way to wash champagne glasses is with very hot water only. Then, just leave them to dry naturally and shine them with a clean cloth if necessary.