Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Want to see more of them? Check out my archive. And here are my most Frequently Asked Questions.
Also see part 1 of my two-part series on Champagne and sparkling wine.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
How long can a good Champagne last?
—Alex E., Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
Around me, not very long. If you're talking about an unopened bottle, a good one in ideal storage situations can go for years and even decades. If you're asking about an open bottle, they typically won't last overnight without losing some of their sparkle unless you top it with one of those stoppers designed specifically for the purpose.
A customer at a wine store told me that Champagnes & sparkling Shiraz that are stored for a long time in cold storage have a tendency to lose some of their effervescence. Is this true?
—Andrea M., New York
Well, cold temperatures do have an effect on bubbles. Without getting too science-y, carbon dioxide is more soluble in cold liquid than in warm. Anyone who's ever opened a bottle of not-quite-cold-enough sparkling wine (or soda pop) can attest that the bubbles come gushing out and the beverage gets flat quickly. On the other hand, a cold bottle will create a steady stream of bubbles. So while it's true that as the wine gets colder, the bubbles formed will be smaller, it's not the same thing to say they'll disappear altogether. Eventually a bottle of bubbly will start to lose its bubbles no matter what its storage temperature. But to suggest that long-term storage at a colder temperature will make the fizz go flat sooner doesn't sit right with Dr. Vinny.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
How long can the carbonation be sustained in an aging bottle of quality, vintage Champagne? Would a regular 750ml bottle flatten more quickly than say, a 6-liter methuselah?
—Justin D., Toronto
It varies from wine to wine, but in my experience, by the 10-year mark you'll notice a clear drop in the carbonation of a bottle of sparkling wine, and perhaps even before that if you're ultra-perceptive. I haven't had much personal experience with aged vintage Champagne beyond that, but I've heard that there are some that still have bubbles 30 or 40 years old or older. The larger the bottle, the more slowly it will age and become flat.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
Is it true that you can differentiate between French Champagne and Australian sparkling wine by the size of the bubbles?
—John K., Robina, Australia
I don't think it's true. Top Champagnes have finer bubbles than most New World wines (fine sparkling wine is prized for tiny bubbles), but most good sparkling wines will have bubbles that look about the same, whether they're from France, Australia, or elsewhere. My guess is that whoever said this may have been some kind of Champagne snob, insinuating that an Australian sparkling wine was inferior to Champagne because the bubbles were too big.