Alcohol is a perishable product, so it does go bad once you open a bottle. If you have received a lovely bottle of champagne, wine or whisky, you’d want to keep it fresh and delicious. This is especially if the people in your home only drink during special occasions. And when you’re planning to send someone a champagne bottle, it’s handy to know its shelf life in case the recipient asks how long they can enjoy the drink.
Here’s a rundown of the shelf lives of different kinds of drinks you plan to give to the special people in your life.
You can keep champagne bottles in your cellar for decades, and they would still taste great.
When You’ve Opened the Bottle
Once you pop the cork, the champagne is best consumed within three to five days. Make sure to put a champagne stopper as soon as you have poured your guests.
Beyond that time frame, the champagne goes flat, and the flavours dissipate. Once champagne spoils, you’ll detect faint vinegary smell and sour taste. You will no longer see bubbles, too. The champagne is no longer good for serving family and guests.
If the Bottle Remains Unopened
If stored properly, an unopened bottle of champagne lasts from three to seven years. Vintage champagnes have a longer life than their non-vintage counterparts. Non-vintages have three to four years, whereas vintages count five to seven years. The highest quality vintage champagnes can last for up to ten years in your cellar.
When it comes to champagnes, the word 'vintage' doesn’t refer to the champagne’s ageing process. Rather, it refers to the grapes that were used to produce it. Vintage champagne is produced from a single year’s harvest. Vintages are relatively rarer than non-vintages, as champagne houses reserve this production method for particularly good harvest years. They make about three or four vintages in ten years.
Non-vintage champagne, on the other hand, is made by blending the harvests from several years. Since the houses have more produce to choose from and work with, non-vintage champagnes tend to carry a lower price point.
How do you know if a bottle is vintage? If the champagne has a year listed, it’s likely a vintage. The year listed indicates the year that the grapes were grown and harvested.
The common practise is to keep opened champagne cool by putting the bottle in the fridge. This works, but only in specific circumstances.
If you plan to drink the champagne within three or four days of opening, then it would be all right to store it in the fridge. Store the bottle upright to prevent leakage. Don’t put them in the freezer, as this will flatten the fizz.
If, however, you’ll open it for a special occasion down the road, store the bottle in a cool place other than your fridge. The lack of humidity in the fridge changes the champagne. As time passes, the cork dries out, and the seal becomes less airtight. The champagne oxidises faster, changing the aromas, flavour profile and fizz.
The best place to store an unopened champagne bottle is in a cool, dark place, preferably below room temperature. Store them on their side to prevent the cork from drying out. Keep the bottle away from natural or artificial light because these degrade the drink; so do temperature fluctuations.
When the time comes for serving, don’t put the champagne bottle in the fridge. Instead, put it in a bucket filled with ice and water and chill it for 20 minutes.
Wine comes in different forms, so it is difficult to give a blanket deadline. There are as many shelf lives as there are types of wines.
If You’ve Opened the Wine Bottle
Contrary to popular belief, not all wine bottles can be stored in the cellar for years. Once opened, the bottle should be consumed within days, so your family or guests can savour the best of its flavour.
How do you know if the wine is spoiled? If it has turned from a vibrant red to a brown-tinged colour. The aromas change, too — if you smell bruised apples from white wine and vinegar from red wines, it may be best to throw them out.
If the Wine Bottle Remains Unopened
Wine is designed to last for a long time, which is why high-quality wines last for decades given the right storage conditions. When the grapes were fermented into wine, yeast was added to break down sugar and convert it into alcohol. The lower sugar content means fewer food sources for bacteria.
Wine is uninhabitable for bacteria, so it remains suitable for drinking for decades — even centuries.
Here is a rundown of shelf lives of common types of wines:
The finest quality wines won’t go bad. They even develop a sublime and distinct taste over time.
If you have a relatively inexpensive wine, it’s best consumed within the next few years. But if you have fine wine, it can be kept for decades with proper storage.
Storing and consuming whisky is different from wines. But it demands less attention as they are more resistant to change.
If You’ve Opened the Whisky Bottle
Once you open the bottle, you expose the whisky to air and alter its taste. The alcohol evaporates, and the whisky’s taste becomes smoother. In most cases, the taste takes a turn for the worse, so it should be consumed within a year or two.
However, if the bottle leaks or if the cork develops mould, discard the drink. The same goes if you detect an odd smell. When in doubt, do a taste test; if you don’t think it’s right for serving, err on the side of caution and throw it away.
When the Bottle Remains Unopened
Whisky lasts indefinitely. So even if you have an unopened bottle from the ‘70s, it can still be opened and consumed a decade from now. It may slightly change its taste over time, but it won’t spoil. Some whisky houses put a “best by” on the bottle, but that’s usually just for formality.
That said, whisky doesn’t age or taste better over time. It’s not like wine that develops a distinguishable taste over decades. Whisky fully develops its flavour as it is ageing in the cask when it is constantly in contact with the oak. As such, it would taste almost the same if it’s opened now compared to if it’s open sometime in the future.
Like other types of alcohol, whisky should be stored away from heat and sunlight, which degrade the flavours. Keep it in a cool, dark place — some budding connoisseurs even invest in a whisky cabinet. Once the bottle is opened, seal it tightly each time it is put back into storage.
Unlike champagne and wine, an unopened whisky bottle should be kept in an upright position. Whisky has a higher alcohol content, and if the cork is constantly in contact with the liquid, it disintegrates. Not only will the seal loosen, but the taste of the whisky will also be affected.
Alcohol is a sublime gift, but it needs a little more care and attention to maintain compared to other cliché presents. When stored correctly, your champagne, wine and whisky will be with you as you celebrate life’s milestones.
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