Does Champagne age well?
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Dear Dr. Vinny,
Does Champagne age well? I have four bottles of brut left over from my sister's wedding in 1998. I don't drink, but I hate to just throw them out if someone would enjoy them. I guess I could open one bottle and taste it, but then only three would be left to gift …
—Kicker, Pensacola, Fla.
Champagne can age, but whether or not they age “well” depends not just on the quality of the bubbly but also on the storage conditions. And even if the Champagne has aged well, it will still taste very different than it did two decades ago, so whether it's still enjoyable or not would be a matter of taste—not everyone enjoys the flavor of aged Champagne. Vintage bubblies and prestige cuvées tend to age better than non-vintage bottlings.
Like still wines, a sparkling wine should be properly stored in a dark place with a constant cool temperature. But after about 10 years, even a well-aged sparkler will start losing its carbonation and the color will darken. If you like Champagne for its fresh fruit flavors and refreshing effervescence, you might be surprised by the dried fruit and honey, nutty and toasty flavors you'll find in an aged example.
As far as your quandary with gift-giving, normally I’d say three bottles of wine are better to give away than none at all. But there’s a fine line between giving someone a chore vs. something they’d enjoy. Rather than giving these as a gift, I'd suggest you just put the word out among your friends that you'd like to give them away if anyone is interested in trying these old sparkling wines that may or may not still be good. Gifting a bottle of wine should be about what they like to drink, or about you sharing something you enjoy, but not spring cleaning.