A common questions for those not used to sparkling wine is “Does Champagne go bad?” Today we’re looking at this and other champagne-related questions like how long it will last once opened and its shelf life.
The short answer to “does champagne go bad?” is yes.
Yes, yes it does. But the longer answer will determine whether or not I have to make an emergency trip the liquor store, to find the best gas station wine I can muster up. Keep reading to find out if yours has gone bad before you’ve even opened it, or how long it will last if it’s already open.
So before I toss the bottle of bubbly collecting dust in my pantry, I better figure out what kind of champagne it is, exactly. Unlike wine that comes in so many varieties made all over the world, champagne is only from one place: the Champagne region of France. What I need to figure out is whether or not my champagne is vintage.
What is Vintage Champagne?
Vintage is determined by what year the grapes that made it were harvested. If it’s all from the same year, you’ve got some vintage Champagne on your hands. A mix of grapes means lower quality champagne, but also a somewhat cheaper price. This differs from most alcohol where we’d ask what vintage something is and assume that means the year, with older often being better.
You can determine whether or not your bottle is vintage by looking at the bottle. If there’s a date on it, then it’s vintage. No date, not vintage. Vintage champagnes are only made 3 or 4 times a decade and take at least 3 years to mature, whereas non vintage champagnes take about 15 months. Vintage are only made in the absolute best years, so you won’t find a year labeled on the majority of champagne bottles.
Basically they determine if it’s a vintage year by the quality of the crops. Good quality crops mean that they have enough to make the champagne. For champagne to be vintage, 100% of the harvest has to come from the year on the label. Only 5% of bubblyproduced is vintage.
Non-vintage shelf life, unopened: 4-5 years
Vintage shelf life, unopened: 10-20 years
Looks like if whomever left the forgotten bottle of baby shower bubbly at my house was cheap I’m making an emergency trip to the liquor store. If the champagne is vintage, though, it’s probably still good.
Signs of Champagne Gone Bad
Ok, so maybe I’m not quite sure how long the champagne’s been in the cellar. How can I tell if champagne’s gone bad?
- It’s changed colour. Bad champagne might turn deep yellow or gold. If it looks like this it’s probably not good to drink anymore.
- It’s chunky. Eww. Improperly stored champagne can spoil and get chunky and gross. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
- It smells or tastes bad. Champagne will get a sour smell and taste to it when it’s no longer good to drink.
My bubbly has lost its bubbles!
Champagne will go flat and that’s one of the signs it’s no longer “good”, but unlike spoiling it won’t be unsafe to drink. Some people actually prefer drinking their champagne once it’s gone flat! That goes for the bottle that’s been in your wine cellar for a little too long or a bottle of champagne forgotten in the back of the fridge for a couple extra days.
You are allowed to cry while you pour spoiled vintage champagne down the kitchen sink.
How long is champagne good after opening?
After opening, and not finishing, your bottle of champagne the first thing you should do is seal the bottle back up. Just put the cork back in, easy peasy. OK, not so much. Apparently, even if you can get the cork back in, it’s not advisable because the carbonation can actually cause it to pop back out again.
You’ll have to use a champagne sealer so if you’re planning ahead of time to only drink half a bottle of champagne be sure to pick one up. These are handy to keep on hand so stock them if you drink champagne even occasionally in your house.
No sealer? Cover it the same way you do your leftover potato salad – plastic wrap (and an elastic to hold it in place). It won’t last as long this way but it will at least stay good until tomorrow’s Netflix and champagne date.
On average, an opened bottle of champagne will last 3-5 days in the fridge before it spoils. If you don’t mind drinking it without bubbles you might get away with longer.
Also, this is a good time to point out that unless you are one of those people who likes to drink flat champagne you can’t preserve it in the freezer. Once it freezes it will lose its fizz and no longer be bubbly.
I once heard a story that someone’s girlfriend tried to re-fizz their leftover champagne with a Sodastream. Apparently it didn’t go well. Once those bubbles are gone, they’re gone, and your champagne is probably not worth drinking anymore.
How to Store Unopened Bottles
As I mentioned before, vintage bottles can last as long as 20 years, but you still have to take care of them! Store your champagne the same way you would your wine – in a cool, dark place sheltered from extreme temperature changes.
It’s nice to have a bottle or two of bubbly around the house for emergency celebrations. Just make sure you are drinking the champagne you have, or make up an excuse to pull it out more often! Unlike still wine, sparkling does not get better with age.
For longer term storage (more than 3 months) don’t store bottles standing upright or at the wrong temperature.
- Keep the temperature between 44 and 60 degrees fahrenheit.
- Don’t expose it to light, even artificial light. Dark is best!
- Store the bottle on its side, not standing up. This will keep the cork moist.
- Unless it’s only for a very short period, don’t store any wine in the kitchen! Kitchens are often prone to large temperature fluctuations from cooking.
Don’t store your champagne in the fridge! Unless it’s only for a couple of days (chilling pre-enjoyment) the lack of humidity in the fridge will cause the bubbles in the champagne to change.
Despite all this, champagne overall is pretty resilient. Chances are your poorly stored, kitchen, back of the cupboard bottle of bubbly is still good providing it hasn’t spoiled or lost its fizz. So go ahead, pop that cork, and find any excuse to celebrate.