Words by: Simon Difford
Non-vintage champagne (those without a production year featured on the bottle) is released when the cellar master considers it ready to drink, but will usually still drink well if consumed within five years of purchase. Vintage wines stored in a cellar, Vinocave type storage or temperature controlled environment, usually take ageing better and can be kept for eight to ten years.
Remember that champagne is released when it's ready to drink and even if you keep your bottle laying down in perfect conditions, it will still change over these years, likely as not for the worse. With age, a champagne's colour will darken and it will loose effervescence and freshness. However, some champagnes with high acidity and good fruit may retain their freshness and actually be more interesting with a couple of years extra age.
Magnums age better than standard size bottles due to having the perfect ratio of gas to liquid. Half bottle and other smaller sizes should be consumed shortly after purchase as they deteriorate quickly due to having a large gas to liquid ratio.
Champagne bottles may be stored horizontally laid of their side or standing. Unlike other wines, the carbon dioxide which fills the gap between the wine and the cork when standing contains sufficient moisture to stop the cork drying out. Champagne should be stored out of direct light at 12-18˚C (54-65˚F) and for long term cellaring at 9-11˚C (48-52˚F).
Champagne definition and intro
Champagne styles and classifications
Levels of dryness in champagne
How to open a bottle of champagne and sabrage
Busting champagne myths
The Champagne region
How is champagne made?
The grape varieties of Champagne