Does Champagne Go Bad?

So there’s this bottle of champagne sitting in your pantry from your birthday party almost a year ago. Or the half-open bottle you opened to celebrate the New Year is sitting in the fridge for a few days already. In both situations, the first question that comes to mind is: does champagne go bad? You don’t want to waste good alcohol, but at the same time, you don’t want to drink or serve champagne that’s past its prime. If that’s the case, it’s time to learn a bit about storage, shelf life, and going bad of champagne. Sounds interesting? Read on.

Enjoying the Champagne in a beautiful view
Image used under Creative Commons from Phil Hawksworth

How To Store Champagne

Before we can discuss storage, we need to discuss two kinds of champagne available on the market. Champagnes can be divided into vintage and non-vintage ones. The difference is straightforward: vintage champagne is made from grapes of one year’s harvest, non-vintage is a blend of grapes from harvests of a few years. Vintage champagnes are considered higher quality, are usually aged longer, and last longer in good quality. And they cost much more, as you might imagine.

Storing champagne (or sparkling wine) is no different than storing wine. That means you should keep it in a cool and dark area, away from sunlight and sources of heat. While the bottle can look good on the eye on display in a liquor cabinet, it isn’t a good place to store champagne. Mainly because sunlight has easy access to the sparkling wine. A temperature slightly below room temperature (about 65 degrees F or 18 degrees C) is perfect, so the pantry or the cellar is the way to go. Storing champagne in a kitchen cabinet for short-term works too, just remember it should stay away from the oven.

If you have a bottle of vintage champagne that you want to store for a prolonged period, lay it on its side. This way you will keep the cork moist, so it won’t dry out and deteriorate.

Transfer the champagne to the fridge a few hours before opening the bottle, as this kind of alcohol is best served chilled.

Once you open the bottle, you should store the leftovers in the fridge. And make sure the bottle is sealed tightly, so it won’t lose its fizz in a few hours. If you can’t put its original cork, use a wine stopper or champagne sealer to seal the bottle. If you don’t own either, you can always MacGyver a temporary seal using plastic wrap and a rubber band. It won’t be as good as the others but should do a decent job for a day or two.

How Long Does Champagne Last

Unopened sparkling wine, like other types of wine, lasts at least a few years after bottling. As I already mentioned, vintage champagne retains its quality (and bubbles) much better than its non-vintage counterpart. That means that the non-vintage variety is best if you consume it within 4 to 5 years of bottling. Vintage champagne lasts easily 10+ years in good quality. That means that a bottle of Bollinger or Veuve Clicquot you bought a decade ago is most likely perfectly fine now.

How does sparkling wine degrade in quality, you ask? Mainly the alcohol loses its fizz that we all love. The bubbles become softer and the flavor less intensive. The champagne is still safe to drink, but it’s not that good anymore.

Once you open the bottle, it should retain some of the bubbles for up to 5 days if refrigerated and sealed tightly. Of course, with time there are fewer bubbles so champagne you opened to celebrate New Year will be noticeably better on January the 2nd than on January the 5th. After that time the champagne will most likely become flat and not worth drinking.

PantryFridge
Champagne (unopened, non-vintage)4 – 5 years
Champagne (unopened, vintage)10+ years
Champagne (opened)4 – 5 days

Please note that the periods above are for best quality only. The champagne will be safe to drink for much longer.

Does Champagne Go Bad

Champagne doesn’t really go bad in a way it’s unsafe to drink. But with time, it slowly begins to lose its fizz, and most people discard such champagne. A sparkling wine that isn’t sparkling doesn’t make much sense, right? Of course, vintage champagnes last much longer than the non-vintage ones. But even most of them aren’t meant for aging. Generally, most champagnes are best to be enjoyed soon after buying. They don’t keep their quality almost forever like whiskey or rum do.

So you have an inexpensive bottle of sparkling wine that’s past the best-by date on the label. What should you do with it? Open the bottle, and pour some into a glass. If it looks like champagne and smells like one, which will be true in almost all cases, it’s safe to drink. Give it a taste to determine if it’s good enough to drink. If there’s anything wrong with the liquid or its taste, discard it. If it’s flat, it’s up to you if you’re okay with drinking such champagne.