We have all been there. You’re clearing out the dark corners of your kitchen cabinets, and you stumble across a bottle… of bubbles! (Pause for suspense, shock, and horror.) How long has this lost soul even been back there?? Can you still drink it? Where is the bubble-resuscitation squad?
Take a breath. We have got the answers.
Do bubbles get better with age? Well, that’s a loaded question– the answer depends on what you’re drinking, how you’re storing it, and (obvi) your personal taste. Loaded questions call for comprehensive guides, and that’s where we come in. Here is our guide to how long every style of sparkling wine can age in your cellar.
Can You Age Champagne?
The short answer is yes! Buuuut Champagne and sparkling wine can not be stored away for quite as long as some still wines.
There is a common myth that Champagne cannot be cellared and does not improve with age. This is because bubbles tend to be particularly fussy when aged. While it is true that most sparkling wines are released ready-to-drink and are intended to be enjoyed soon after purchase, there are certain types of bubbly that can indeed benefit from cellaring.
High-quality Champagne and certain sparkling wines made in the Traditional Method can develop more complex and nuanced flavors with proper aging. As these wines mature, their aromas and tastes evolve, offering a different drinking experience than when they were young. Cellared Champagne will have a darker color, enhanced nutty and dried fruit notes, and may have some obstruction to its mouse– but it can be spectacular.
However, not all sparkling wines are suitable for long-term cellaring, and it’s essential to check the specific wine’s producer recommendations and characteristics to determine its aging potential.
How to Tell if a Sparkling Wine Will Age Well
It’s important to note that Champagne comes aged and ready to go. It is Champagne law that non-vintage bubbly must age for at least 12 months on the lees, and vintage Champagnes must age for a minimum of three years.
We can make a general guide to sparkling wine bottle aging, sure. But knowing how much time your bubbly can handle is truly a wine-by-wine call, so it’s important to learn how to identify wines that can handle some time in the cellar. (But if you’re ordering from Last Bubbles, we will always tell you when a wine is primed for cellaring.)
Characteristics which make wine age-worthy include high acidity (think: German Riesling), structured tannins (think: Napa Cab), and sugar content (think: Sauternes). Wines primed for aging may not taste their best after they are first bottled, and need time to rest. But all of those factors are difficult to determine without popping the bottle yourself. So we always recommend checking the critic reviews and producer notes to see if your Champagne is age-worthy. Critics and producers alike will usually note if a wine needs time to unwind, and if it does, will provide a loose timeline on its peak years.
A general rule of thumb is to only consider cellaring Méthode Champenoise bottles, as these bubbles will be of higher quality than a charmat method sparkling wine’s coarser bubbles. The finer the bubble, the better the aging potential.
If you have Champagne, you can rest easy knowing that you’ve got the best bubbles the Traditional Method has to offer. But if you’re aging a California Sparkler, Lambrusco, Cava, Prosecco, or Sekt– ensure it was made with the Champagne method before you even consider cellaring.
The Basics to Aging Your Bubbly
Cellaring Champagne requires careful attention to preserve its delicate and effervescent characteristics over time. To properly cellar Champagne, ensure it is stored horizontally in a cool, dark, and vibration-free environment with a consistent temperature between 50 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 15 degrees Celsius). Fluctuations in temperature and exposure to light can adversely affect the wine’s quality. Additionally, maintain a humidity level (around 70%) to prevent the corks from drying out, which could lead to oxidation.
Cellaring Champagne on its side is essential to keep the cork moist and in contact with the wine, creating a tight seal. The cork serves as a barrier between the interior of the bottle and the external environment, preventing oxygen from seeping in and causing premature oxidation. When the Champagne bottle is stored horizontally, the wine continuously wets the cork, ensuring it stays plump and airtight. This way, the carbonation and delicate aromas of the Champagne are preserved for a longer period, allowing the wine to age gracefully and maintain its signature effervescence and flavor profile until you’re ready to enjoy it. When storing a sparkling wine on its side, be sure the cork points in a safe direction.
How Long Can Champagne Age?
The aging potential of vintage Champagne can vary depending on factors such as the specific producer, the vintage year, and the quality of the grapes. Generally, vintage Champagne has the potential to age and develop in flavor for a considerable amount of time, often way longer than non-vintage (NV) Champagnes.
On average, vintage Champagnes can be cellared for around 10 to 20 years or even more in some exceptional cases. Some prestigious vintage Champagnes from renowned producers can age gracefully for several decades, revealing more complex and mature characteristics over time.
Non-Vintage Champagnes tend to be less primed for cellaring, but they can age in your collection for three to five years.
Non-vintage Champagne is not typically considered the best for cellaring because of its intended style and composition. Non-vintage (NV) Champagne is a blend of wines from different vintages, carefully crafted by the winemaker to achieve a consistent and recognizable house style. The goal is to create a Champagne that represents the house’s signature characteristics year after year, regardless of the variations in grape harvests.The blending process is aimed at achieving a well-balanced and approachable wine that is ready to be enjoyed upon release.
Unlike vintage Champagne, which is made from grapes harvested in a single exceptional year, non-vintage Champagne includes wines from multiple years, some of which may not be as suitable for long-term aging. The higher quality of grape, the better suited the wine will be for aging, and producers tend to save their crème de la crème for their Vintage Champagnes and Prestige Cuvées.
Fill Your Cellar
Now that you’ve heard about the beauty of aging Champagne, is your cellar looking empty? A few bottles of our daily offer would look cozy in your wine storage space, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be getting a few extra bottles to pop right away.
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