Champagne is the noblest of drinks, fizzy, sparkling, effervescent, bubbly, frothy, and jolly tasty to boot. Real champagne from the, er, champagne region of France, is rightly reserved for the most auspicious celebrations: weddings, birthdays, and huge gambling wins. But with such an expensive beverage and such an exquisite, sophisticated flavour, the question of how to store champagne is a vital one for everyone who only gets to sample the drink occasionally and wants to be sure they enjoy it at its best.
Advice on how to store champagne bottles is conflicting. There are those who say you should store them horizontally, as with any other wine, and those who advocate vertical storage (ie, standing the bottle up on its base). It is hard to say which is correct. The logic behind storing non-sparkling wine horizontally is that the wine will cover the bottom of the cork on the inside of the bottle, preventing it from drying out and crumbling. Anyone who has ever had a corked bottle of wine will tell you that the drinking experience is not pleasant. A supplementary reason behind horizontal wine storage is that it is generally more efficient, as you can stack bottles horizontally in a rack.
Some champagne purists insist that the sparkling wine should be stored upright as gases circulating in the bottle, a product of the secondary fermentation process, carry enough vapour to keep the cork moist.
What all are agreed upon, however, is that you should store champagne in a dark, cool place, where it is not subject to shocks or movements, or fluctuations in ambient temperature. Cellars are obviously perfect for this, but a surprising number of people don’t own cellars these days, so the bottom of your wardrobe is probably the next best bet. Any out of the way cupboard where a bottle of champagne can rest undisturbed.
Another word of caution is that you should be wary of keeping your champagne in the fridge for too long. Everyone knows that a bottle of champagne should be served chilled, and kept in an ice bucket once opened, but a few hours in the fridge is all that’s needed to chill the bottle. If you make the mistake of keeping champagne in the fridge from the moment you buy it until the moment you drink it, you risk killing that divine slightly biscuity flavour and ending up with something that tastes like a $90 bottle of Bud.
In short, if you need to know how to store champagne, you are best advised to keep it on its side (for the record, you CAN store it upright, but opinion is divided on the long-term effect on the champagne, and storing it on its side certainly does no harm) in a wine rack in a cool dark place, giving it plenty of time to settle after purchasing it (if it’s from the Champagne region of France, as the only true champagne is, then it’s probably travelled a long way), and putting it in the fridge around four hours before serving.
Please enjoy responsibly, as they say…
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