Does Unopened Champagne Go Bad? [Champagne Lifespans]
Champagne can get really expensive and it's heartbreaking to let it pass its best.
But, how long is Champagne good for? Does Champagne expire?
In this guide, I explain how long Champagne keeps for and how you can tell if it has gone bad.
How Long Does Champagne Last Unopened?
Unopened champagne can last for 3 to 4 years if it's non-vintage (N.V) and for over 10 years if it's vintage.
The shelf life of Champagne depends on two factors:
Why Does Vintage Champagne Last Longer?
Vintage Champagne is considered the pinnacle of sparkling wine. It is only produced in exceptional years when the grape growing conditions are perfect.
A Non-Vintage Champagne on the other hand, is one that is made from a combination of grapes harvested over numerous years. Like a type of Champagne blend.
Made from very high quality grapes from a single harvest, Vintage Champagne is meant to be aged by design.
The winemaking process allows tertiary flavors and aromas to develop as it ages in the bottle. These toasted, nutty type notes develop over a long time.
But, how do the winemakers do this?
Premier Champagne makers like Dom Perignon and Louis Roederer age their Vintage Champagnes for at least 3 years on their lees (the dead yeast and residual particles) before bottling.
Aging wine on its lees adds necessary structure that helps to stabilize a wine and enhances its aging potential. It also adds complexity and texture.
This process gives Vintage Champagne the ability to develop and evolve once bottled for years and years.
The best vintage Champagnes may last even longer than 10 years.
Note: Prestige Cuvée Champagnes also age well as they are made with the best grapes from the best local vineyards. The quality is therefore very good.
How Can You Tell if Your Champagne is Ready to Drink?
If you have a non-vintage Champagne then it's ready to drink straight away. Don't wait longer than 3 or 4 years but it may still be fine of it's a high quality N.V. Champagne.
If you have a bottle of Vintage Champagne then it too can be drank straight away. However, to drink it in its prime you may be best waiting.
But, how can you tell when its ready?
Thankfully, vintage charts exist for this purpose.
A vintage chart describes the harvest quality for each year across each wine region and grape varietal.
Simply look up a Champagne vintage chart (Champagne is easy because there's only one region) for your year and look at the 'Drink Window'.
If it says 'NYR' (not yet ready) then you should hold it and check back next year. If it says 'Drink' then you know what to do!
Here's an example of a vintage chart for Champagne.
How to Tell the Difference Between Vintage and Non-Vintage
In order to find out whether you have a Vintage or Non-Vintage (and how much the person you received the bottle from loves you), all you have to do is to look at the front label and look for a year.
This is the year the grapes were harvested on.
All Vintage Champagnes will have this year clearly and proudly displayed on the label, while the Non-Vintage Champagnes will not.
A Non-Vintage Champagne will likley be labelled N.V.
For whiskey drinkers, the esteem of Vintage Champagnes is similar to age statement whiskies. Older, single malt whiskies will carry an age statement (and large price tag), while cheaper, younger blends do not.
How Can You Tell if Champagne Has Gone Bad?
Telling if your champagne has gone bad can be a bit tricky, but there are a few tell-tale signs you can look out for:
- Change in Color: Champagne that has gone bad often darkens in color. It may turn a deep yellow or brownish color. This is due to oxidation, which occurs when the wine is exposed to air. Champagne will naturally darken in color over years so this is not always cause for concern.
- Dislodged Cork - if the cork has dislodged slightly then it's very possible that your wine has spoiled. This was probably caused by the bottle getting too hot at some point.
- Cork Seepage - if there's any residue on the neck or cork then it's likely your wine has been compromised. Again, this was probably caused by extreme heat.
- Lack of Bubbles: One of the key characteristics of champagne is its effervescence. If your champagne doesn't fizz when you open it or if the bubbles disappear quickly, then it is likely past its best. The lack of a 'pop' sound when opening means it has probably lost its fizz.
- Off Smell: If your champagne has a strong, pungent smell that's similar to vinegar, rotten eggs, or damp cardboard, it's likely gone bad. This could be due to a number of factors, including bacterial contamination or cork taint.
- Unpleasant Taste: If your champagne tastes flat, overly sour, or has lost its fruit flavors, it's probably gone bad. A good young champagne should taste fresh, crisp, and have a balance of fruit and acidity. An older Champagne will develop more complex nutty, toasted flavors and aromas.
Is it Ok to Drink Old Champagne?
Yes, it might not taste great if it's gone bad but it won't make you sick.
Trust your judgement.
If it smells unpleasant then it's going to taste similarly unpleasant.
Similarly, if the cork has obviously failed and the Champagne has lost it's bubbles then it's not going to be an enjoyable wine to drink.
How to Store Unopened Champagne Properly
Proper storage of Champagne is essential if you're not planning on drinking it for a while and want to save it for a later date.
Not only will it ensure that it tastes great once you do decide to drink it, it will also extend its shelf life.
The best way to store Champagne is in a wine fridge or a wine cellar, but other places can be fine too as long as they meet the following criteria:
What's your rule when it comes to storing Champagne? We'd love to hear from you in the comments section!