Champagne is a living, breathing product which slowly breaths through the porous cork and over time oxidates. To avoid premature oxidation when storing champagne there are 8 cardinal sins to be avoided at all cost.
Avoid temperature fluctuations
The biggest culprit for spoiling wine is fluctuation in temperature. Ideally you should keep your cuvees between 10 and 12 degrees Celsius which would be similar to ageing them below ground in the chalk pit cellars of Champagne. They can be kept safely at warmer temperatures (we wouldn’t recommend any higher than 22, so room temperature in Singapore is definitely discouraged), but make sure the temperature is consistent.
Keep bottles away from bright light
Precious bottles can be very delicate and easily damaged by lightstrike, sometimes a few minutes in direct sunshine can age a fine drop prematurely. Keep your wines in a dark place, or shield them from artificial and natural light (eg screen them with tinted glass or wrap them in yellow cellophane or aluminium foil). Fluorescent lights can also fade the labels.
Ensure consistent humidity
The finest wine fridges and cellars replicate the conditions of an underground vault, and the conditions in your refrigerator are far from this. Humidity should be between 50 and 80 percent which rules out the kitchen fridge as the dry air will dehydrate the corks letting too much air into the bottles.
Keep your bottles away from vibrations
Placing your wines next to a moving object can increase premature ageing. Movement introduces unnecessary kinetic energy into the bottle which not only affects the way the sediment rests in the bottle, but also can cause chemical reactions which change the balance of the wine.
This is why the best wine fridges have wooden racks which absorb shock and shaking.
Lay down your babies
If you’re keeping a bottle for a special occasion, lay it down in the cellar. This keeps the cork moist and the liquid seals the bottle. Especially if this is a prestige cuvee or a special vintage. If you’re planning to drink it within a month or so, it can stay standing.
Size matters: the magnum effect
Take note here; a magnum has double the contents of liquid as a 750 ml bottle yet the same amount of air under the cork. This means we have a lower wine to air ratio hence the wine slows down its ageing profile and develops in a far more complex way.
The contents of a magnum are far superior to a 750ml and you will see much more depth and complexity whilst still retaining freshness. They also say that a magnum is the perfect size for 2 people… when one isn’t drinking.
Drink your non-vintage champagnes fresh, and age your vintages
Champagne is one of the only regions in the world where the cellar master decides on how long the wine should be aged, and sends it out to market when it is ready to be enjoyed. As a non vintage champagne is a blend of multiple years and sometimes many different harvest over the years, it already showcases the complexity that the winemaker had envisaged for this drop.
A good rule of thumb, is that the time the cuvee has spent in the cellar before being released to the world is the time within it should be opened. Most NV’s are aged around 3 years, so don’t save them for that special anniversary. Make your Tuesday evening an occasion by bringing out that special bottle.
Invest in a wine cabinet which will keep your champagnes safe and sound and shield them for all the above dangers. And if you don’t have the space, just drink it. After all, that’s what it is made for!