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Storing your bottles of Champagne

Champagne wines are sold ready to drink

Champagne wines are matured to perfection in the producer’s cellars before release so they may be enjoyed straightaway.
But if you are prepared to wait, it’s not a bad idea to allow the wine to settle for a few weeks so as to restore its molecular harmony.
Really great Champagne wines can safely be set aside for anything from a few months to a few years — providing you store them properly of course. More prolonged aging will bring out their complex taste when the time does come to drink them.

How to store Champagne

Conventional wisdom says that wine should be stored in a cool environment at constant temperatures of 10-12° C (maximum 15°C). Humidity is generally a good thing in a wine cellar providing it does not exceed 60-70 percent. Too much humidity may encourage mould, damaging the labels and the cork and ultimately affecting the taste of the wine itself. Other potentially harmful external influences include: light, strong smells (which can filter through the cork), draughts, sudden changes in temperature and vibrations. If you are lucky enough to own a cellar that offers such protection, so much the better. If not, Champagne should be stored in conditions as close to ideal as possible and always away from the light.

One thing that doesn’t really matter is the angle of the bottle. Unlike still wine, Champagne can be stored on its side or upright since the pressure inside the bottle will keep the cork moist and the seal intact in either case. While horizontal storage is generally recommended, some producers disagree, arguing that upright storage keeps the wine away from the cork so reducing the risk of cork taint.

Whatever you choose, remember that Champagne is particularly susceptible to lightstrike: that ’taste of light’ that comes from excessive exposure to light and ultraviolet light in particular — what the French call "goût de lumière". To combat this, simply keep your bottles in the dark. Failing that, do whatever you can to protect them from the light (eg screen them with tinted glass or wrap them in yellow cellophane or aluminium foil). Note also that sodium vapour lights are less harmful to wine than fluorescent or conventional lighting, which should be avoided.

It follows from all of the above that the ideal place to store Champagne is in a cool, dark, slightly dank basement. The next best thing is a wine rack, which should be tucked away in a place that replicates these conditions as closely as possible. Another possibility (for orders of multiple bottles) is the corrugated shipping box but only if the humidity levels are not excessive. A good small space solution is a custom-built refrigerated wine cabinet: a single unit comprising multiple storage compartments with independent temperature control that allow Champagne to be kept at the ideal serving temperature.

Proper storage does of course start at the point of sale so make sure you purchase Champagne from a reputable wine merchant who takes every precaution to protect their wines — such as displaying only dummy Champagne bottles in their windows. Storage is less of a problem for supermarkets since Champagne rarely remains on the shelves for long enough to sustain damage from light.

How long to cellar Champagne

With the exception of special cuvees, laying down bottles of Champagne is probably best avoided since as a consumer you cannot rule out lapses in quality control at some point in the bottle’s life. A bottle that has been over-exposed to light, for instance, should be consumed immediately after purchase. But assuming proper handling and storage conditions, a Champagne will reach its peak within a few years of disgorgement and then begin a slow decline. How long you can safely store it at home depends on a number of factors: not just proper storage, but also how the Champagne was made in the first place and how it has evolved over time.

Generally speaking, the better the quality of the Champagne, the longer you can store it at home. The ideal aging period is a matter of individual taste, depending on whether you prefer a crisp or a more mature Champagne.

Aged Champagne wines

Some wine connoisseurs prefer to store Champagne for several years before drinking. This is particularly true of British wine lovers who, unlike their French counterparts, have a long tradition of aging Champagne. As the wine matures, what it loses in exuberance and especially crispness it gains in softness. Aging adds a richness of flavour, transforming the wine that sometimes acquires a sherry-like (or Madeira-like) character. In short, the Champagne morphs into another kind of wine altogether, acquiring a taste that not everyone finds palatable.

In July 2010 the world’s oldest Champagne wines (including some made by Veuve Clicquot) were found on the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

A treasure trove of around 100 bottles was salvaged by a team of divers from a shipwreck located off the coasts of Sweden and Finland. Some hundrede centaine de bouteilles (dont quelques-unes de la Maison Veuve Clicquot) sont retrouvées en juillet 2010 par une équipe de plongeurs dans une épave située à mi-chemin des côtes suédoises et finlandaises.

It was originally thought that these bottles dated from the 1780s, part of a gift from King Louis XVI of France to the Imperial Russian court. Experts later found that the bottles dated back to the early 19thCentury, to the days when the widow Clicquot herself would personally taste every cuvee before it was dispatched for delivery across the world. use then Head of Veuve Clicquot Champagne House, Barbe Nicole Clicquot-Ponsardin, would personally taste every cuvee before was and et en dégustait les cuvées avant leur expédition dans le monde. aled that turned out that they dated from the Ayant initialement supposé que ces bouteilles remontaient aux années 1780, comme faisant partie d’un cadeau du Roi Louis XVI à la Cour du Tsar de Russie, les experts datent ces bouteilles du deuxième quart du XIXe siècle, époque où Barbe Nicole Clicquot-Ponsardin dirigeait la Maison Veuve Clicquot et en dégustait les cuvées avant leur expédition dans le monde.

Close analysis of the corks revealed the image of a comet on the section in contact with the wine (the miroir), which was taken to refer to the star seen crossing the Champagne skies in 1811, supposedly the sign of an outstanding vintage.L’analyse attentive des bouchons permet en effet d’observer une comète sur le miroir, symbole faisant référence à l’astre ayant traversé le ciel de Champagne en 1811 auquel la légende attribue la qualité du millésime.

After two centuries in the Baltic Sea, protected from air and light and stored at low temperatures, the bottles remained lightly effervescent with a powerfully aromatic nose. Après plus de deux siècles en mer Baltique dans des conditions favorables de conservation, grâce à une totale absence d’air et de lumière, avec une température basse, le champagne Veuve Clicquot reste encore légèrement effervescent et doté d’arômes puissants.

These bottles together with the Perrier-Jouët bottles dating from the 1825 vintage were some of the oldest still in existence in 1020. (avec celles de Perrier-Jouët de 1825) Ces bouteilles Veuve Clicquot comptent (avec celles de Perrier-Jouët de 1825) parmi les plus vieux champagnes au monde en 2010 !