Tag Archives: aging sparkling wine

Storing wine on the Top of the Fridge


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!

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Pink Bubbles for Valentine’s Day



Have you got a nice bottle of bubbly ready to be chilled for Valentine’s Day? To me, it’s every bit as important as the flowers or chocolates – or dinner out – whatever your traditions are.

And, somehow it seems to me that the bubbly should be pink. It adds that extra special, romantic touch.

Did you know that it’s not just the bubbles that make rosé Champagne different from other rosé wines? The vast majority of non-fizzy rosé or blush wines in the world are made by crushing a dark-skinned variety, such as Zinfandel, and leaving the juice in contact with the skins for a short while – until the winemaker likes the color (the juice is clear regardless of the skin color). Continue reading

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Should I Age my Champagne?


Question from Jessica: I got a really nice bottle of Champagne from a friend. Do I need to age it?

Reply: What a lovely dilemma you have! The producers will always tell you to drink it right away because it encourages sales. And, that’s fair enough because sparklers are very reliably enjoyable on release.  But – if you have a really nice bottle, aging can add to the wine’s complexity.

Here’s how to sort it out:

The least expensive Champagnes don’t have a vintage date. But that doesn’t mean it’s not any good. These wines bring several vintages together to give the producer a consistent house style. The great thing about non-vintage Champagne is that the blend includes some older wine, which certainly adds to complexity. These wines have to be bottle aged a minimum of eighteen months at the winery and it’s fine to keep them for up to five years. The wine might not be quite as fizzy down the road, but the compensation is added complexity.

Vintage Champagne is only from the best vintages and has to be bottle aged at least three years at the winery and can continue to improve in the bottle for up to as much as 20 years, especially if it’s a Blanc de Blancs. The same thing applies to what are called Prestige Cuvées – wines with special names like Dom Perignon or La Grande Dame. Some sommeliers feel that these wines don’t even come into their own for about 10 years.

The flavors deepen with age but, as I said, the effervescence will become more subtle. I remember talking with Hugh Davies, the owner of Schramsberg here in the Napa Valley. He recalled that his mom liked to drink 20 and 30 year old Shramsberg just for the flavors and in that case she drank it out of a wine glass rather than a Champagne flute to get the best of the flavors. So, as with so many other things in wine, the decision on when to drink it depends upon your personal taste.

But – when in doubt, down the hatch! Cheers!

Photo: Eric Magnuson on Flickr CC

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Is My 1990 Cristal Too Old?

Question from Victor: Today I was going to open my 1990 Cristal Champagne and noticed it was really cloudy. Has it gone bad? Its over 20 years aged.

Reply: Hello, Victor. Thank you for writing! Cloudiness isn’t a good sign but, if it’s been stored properly your Cristal is, theoretically, near the end of its viability but not necessarily beyond. 

These prestige Champagnes are delicious upon release but can also age for a surprisingly long time. There are those who think they don’t really come into their own until ten years from the vintage. Total aging time? Up to fifteen or twenty years from the vintage. Some would say even longer, depending upon the producer and the vintage. 

Of course, deliciousness is subjective and personal. Young Champagne is lively and vibrant with peaches and apples, the citrusy tartness rounded by toasty, brioche-like richness. With time those characteristics gradually morph into increased toastiness, dried fruit, nutty character, mineral character often ramps up as may earthy truffle character, and the acidity seems to have softened. It all depends upon the wine. The thing to know about Cristal is that it usually spends five to six years aging on the yeast and is then given additional bottle time before release. The youngest Cristal now available is the 2004. The yeast contact actually helps keep the wine fresh.  

I did a quick search for tasting notes and found these comments on the 1990 Cristal from a 2010 tasting from erobertparker.com :  “The 1990 Cristal is a dramatic, sweeping wine endowed with masses of apricots, peaches, flowers and minerals. A large-scaled Cristal, the 1990 combines size with clarity and focus in a remarkably complete style that recalls the 1982. The wine remains generous on the palate, with stunning length and a finish that lasts forever.”  Continue reading

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