If a chilled Champagne warms up and then is chilled again, will it be ruined?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

I've been told that Champagne is ruined if it is chilled and then returned to room temperature before chilling again and serving. Can you tell me what gets ruined and what the physics/chemistry of ruination are?

—Tauni S., Eugene, Ore.

Dear Tauni,

"The Physics of Ruination"—I love it. Sounds like a book I'd like to read or a band I'd listen to. But be reassured: the process you describe will not "ruin" your sparkling wine. Nonetheless, your letter brings up a technical but interesting point. (Interesting to me, at least.)

Sparkling wine is a delicate thing—it's much more sensitive to light and temperature fluctuations than still wine. Why? Somewhere, my high school chemistry teacher is laughing at me for trying to explain this. Here goes:

Carbon dioxide is the gas that gives bubbly its bubbles. The solubility of carbon dioxide depends on the temperature of the liquid it is in. As the temperature goes up, the carbon dioxide is less soluble and wants to escape rapidly. If you've ever sprayed yourself by opening a warm can of soda or beer, you've experienced this phenomenon. If the liquid is well-chilled, the carbon dioxide solubility is greater, and it's harder for the gas to get out. A well-chilled glass of sparkling wine will have a gentle stream of tiny bubbles that last a long time as carbon dioxide is slowly released.

The change in solubility is not instant. It takes a while for all the carbon dioxide to recombine inside the wine. If you chill a warm bottle rapidly, a bunch of the carbon dioxide will still want to flee, even though the bottle might feel cold. If you'd like to preserve the carbonation (and not lose most of your wine in a gushing fountain of big, aggressive bubbles), try to not mess with the temperature of your sparkling wine, and chill it gradually. I recommend thirty minutes in a bucket of ice and water rather than five minutes in your freezer.

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

Why are beers aged in wine barrels? And what's a "foeder"?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why large, used wine barrels, or "foudres," have …

Sep 16, 2020

Can I recycle wine bottles that have metal or plastic capsules on the top? Is it true that some capsules contain lead?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers tips for recycling wine bottles and handling older …

Sep 14, 2020

Half of a broken cork ended up in my wine bottle. Is that OK?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers advice for what to do when a cork breaks.

Sep 11, 2020

Are all wine barrels toasted?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why oak barrel staves are toasted.

Sep 9, 2020

Why is “smoke taint” a problem? Don’t they clean the grapes?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how smoke taint works, why it can't be "washed …

Sep 7, 2020

How do I know if a wine will be good before I buy it?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers tips for finding the wines you'll love.

Sep 4, 2020