The distinct, complex and intricate nature of Champagne dictates that it’s a wine requiring precise attention and processes in every step of production. This specificity isn’t limited to the harvesting and fermentation of the wine, but also extends to how Champagne must be stored, aged and finally consumed. Abiding by the proper storing and drinking etiquette for Champagne will allow you to enjoy this unique wine according to the traditions its creators intended.
Aging Champagne: During Production and After Purchase
Long before you’ll ever buy a new bottle of Champagne from your local liquor store or wine shop, the wine will have been aged. Nearly all Champagne is aged for two to three years, and the finest examples of the wine will be aged for six years or more.
You can also choose to age Champagne on your own, although wine enthusiasts disagree about the benefits of drinking bottle-aged Champagne. Some believe the best flavors result from drinking Champagne shortly after purchase, while others contend that flavors develop and improve from a year or more of bottle-aging. In one extraordinary case, a bottle of Champagne dating back to 1825 was opened and consumed 184 years later, in 2009. The tasters, after drinking the world’s oldest bottle of Champagne, found it to be vastly superior to several fresh Champagnes.
Storing Champagne the Right Way
The carbonated aspect of Champagne necessitates specific storage conditions. The glass of a Champagne bottle is often thicker than a standard wine bottle, a tradition which dates back to Champagne’s early days, when the volatile carbonated wine would cause glass bottles to explode.
Bottle sizes are either 750 milliliters (mL), the size of a standard wine bottle, or 1.5 liters (L), the larger bottle called a “magnum.” Magnum bottles may be better for champagne, though no specific proof can be used to substantiate this notion. The corks for champagne are also unique, as they must be designed to properly contain the carbonated substance. They’re typically made from two pieces of standard cork and a piece of ground cork mixed with glue.
Etiquette for Drinking Champagne
Champagne is optimally poured by tilting the glass you’re pouring into on a diagonal and allowing the wine to slide down the edge of the glass. This’ll prevent the carbonation from causing a head to quickly rise and just as quickly go flat.
Champagne is generally best served in a “flute” glass, a piece of glassware with a thin stem and a long, narrow bowl. The shape is ideal for the carbonated nature of Champagne and allows the wine’s “nose”–a wine enthusiast’s term for aromas that’s part of the terminology associated with Champagne–to present itself in the best possible way.