Does Champagne Go Off?

You were given a bottle of champagne a couple of years ago and you’ve been saving if for a ‘special occasion’. It’s been sitting in the back of a cupboard gathering dust…How do you know if it’s still okay to drink?

The good news is even if it’s no longer fresh, old champagne is not harmful to drink.

In this article we’ll discuss how to spot a champagne that is past its best. We’ll discuss the best way to store champagne, and how different types of champagne can age differently. We’ll answer the question does champagne improve with age like some famous red and white wines? Once you’ve bought a bottle, how long should you keep it before drinking it?

What is the typical shelf life of champagne?

See the table below for a very rough guide… and read on for more insider information!

Type of champagneHow long to keep before drinking
Non Vintage3 years
Vintage5-10 years

First of all let’s clear up the difference between a non- vintage and vintage champagne…

Champagne is made by picking and pressing grapes and turning them into a still wine (usually done in a stainless steel tank). The champagne-maker has many tanks of still wines at his disposal to make a blend that then becomes champagne.

Non- vintage champagne:

is made of wines from several tanks from several different years of harvests, blended and then bottled with sugar and yeast to set off the second fermentation which produces the bubbles.

does champagne go off/ vintage champagne

Vintage champagne:

is made in the same way BUT…with only wines made with grapes from one single year’s harvest. Vintage champagnes are special as the grapes that go into them have to have a perfect balance between sugar and acidity and therefore the potential to age for many years. A vintage champagne has a year on the label.

How to tell the age of a bottle of champagne

While champagne lies in the cellar ageing with the yeast sediment from the second fermentation, it is said to be ‘dormant’. Once the yeast sediment is removed from the bottle during a process called disgorgement the clock starts ticking in terms of freshness. Some producers are now putting the disgorgement date on the back label to help consumers know how old the champagne is. If your bottle doesn’t have this info your wine merchant should be able to find out for you!

How to tell if champagne is bad

Just like any other wine with a cork, champagne can be corked. The smell is unmistakable – mouldy, wet newspaper, wet dog…not pleasant! It tastes mouldy, flat and dull too.

Champagne can be oxidised- this usually happens when it’s old and the cork has shrunk allowing air to come into contact with the wine. This turns the champagne a very dark golden colour and it tastes of sherry and lacks fruit.

Does champagne get better with age?

There’s not a straightforward answer to this question unfortunately! It depends on the individual bottle of champagne and personal preference.

If you enjoy your champagnes light, bone dry, with hints of lemon and delicate notes of biscuit, it’s unlikely you’ll enjoy a champagne that has been aged for several years which has become rich in style, ie very toasty and nutty, possibly with hints of truffle.

Not all champagnes age well. A non vintage champagne which might have lots of wine in it from a hot summer will not have enough acidic quality to age well and will taste lacking in fruit after 3-4 years. A vintage champagne however, may age well for many, many years.

In 2010 divers found champagne on the seabed in the Baltic, it was thought to be Veuve Clicquot from the 1780s and it was still drinakble!

How long does champagne last, once it’s been opened?

If you have a proper champagne stopper, champagne can last 3-5 days in the fridge after opening. If you don’t have a stopper then a using a few layers of cling film over the bottle top, secured with an elastic band will prevent some of the bubbles escaping for 24 hours.

How long can you keep champagne in the fridge or freezer?

Unless you’re planning to drink the champagne in the next day or two, don’t store it in the fridge. To chill it down properly before serving, pop it in the fridge at least four hours before serving.

Only use the freezer to chill champagne in an absolute emergency and set an alarm to go off half an hour after you have put it in. Champagne bottles explode in the freezer so be very careful.