Storing wine on the Top of the Fridge

Dp

Question from Denis: I have had a bottle of Dom Perignon [Champagne] for almost 7 years. It has been stored over the refrigerator in a wine rack slightly tilted for the greatest part of that time.  Is it still good?  Should I continue to save for a special event( it was given to us by our daughter and son in law when our first grandson was born) ( we should have drunk it right away , it was a great day).  Or should we chill and drink soon because it will or is bad and there is no better way to find out?

Reply: Hi, Denis. Thanks for writing!

The good news is that top of the line bubblies like DP can age quite well, 20 to 30 years total, counting from the vintage.The bad news is that the top of the fridge is about the worst place to store wine because the temperature in the kitchen fluctuates a great deal and, of course, heat rises. The fluctuation is the hardest thing for wine to tolerate but heat, alone, can be damaging. There’s only one way to find out if it’s spoiled and that’s to open it.

There’s so much sentiment wrapped up in that special bottle – which is far more important than the actual wine – that I’d be inclined to open it with your daughter and son on a special occasion. But, have a back-up bottle chilled, too, in case the wine looks brown and smells funky.

FYI, spoiled wine can’t hurt you – unless you drink too much, of course 😉 So, there’s no risk in trying it. The worst that can happen is that you wrinkle your nose and are disappointed.

For me, even if the wine isn’t good anymore, I enjoy the experience of opening an older bottle that might be over the hill – the anticipation and even the wine, itself. It’s interesting if nothing else. But, I always have a back-up bottle.

Seven years is a long time when the wine isn’t stored properly, but I hope that you’re pleasantly surprised. Older bubblies that have aged well aren’t quite as fizzy as they were when they were young, but the complexity that comes with age is the trade off. I remember talking to Hugh Davies, the head of Schramsberg here in the Napa Valley, and he told me that his mom used to like to drink their older vintages out of a regular wine glass, just to enjoy the aroma and aged characteristics. Incidentally, if you want a special domestic bubbly as your back up, I’d highly recommend Schramsberg. I also love Roederer Estate in Anderson Valley, CA.

Proper storage conditions
If you have any other bottles that you’d like to age, try to find a cool, dark place in your home that doesn’t fluctuate too much. A basement is terrific. You could insulate a closet. Or under the stairs or the house. Or just on the floor in a closet and hope for the best. Ideal storage is 55 F degrees and slightly humid but for practical purposes between 45 and 65 should be fine. The less ideal the conditions, the less you should push the wine to its limit. Cork finished bottles kept should be kept sideways in a dark place. 

I hope it turns out to be wonderful! Let me know! Cheers!

Send me your wine question   I’ll get back to you in a jiffy!

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