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Keeping Champagne in the Refrigerator

How long is too long?

Sparkling wine in the refrigerator just waiting to be consumed.
Sparkling wine in the refrigerator just waiting to be consumed.

by Mike Supple
published: 24 Mar 2010
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A quick Google search about chilling Champagne yields hundreds of results across wine sites, blogs, Yahoo! Answers, eHow and more. Most of them say that keeping Champagne in the fridge for too long is bad for the Champagne, listing 8 hours as the critical point at which your bubbly goes from delicious to deplorable. Unfortunately, very few of these sites address the why.

If you leave some sparkling wine in the refrigerator for 8 hours and 1 minute, you have not suddenly destroyed your bottle. Fairy godmothers do not make wine, so there is no magic time when all things go bad. But yes, leaving sparkling wine (or white wine for that matter) in the fridge for too long can lead to undesirable results

Refrigerators are designed to keep your food cold and dry. Good for onions and garlic, bad for wine. A dry environment like a fridge can cause the cork to lose moisture, making it shrink. When this happens, air can get into the bottle. Oxygen spoils wine very quickly, so air in the bottle can make your Champagne taste unpleasantly stale, lose the fresh fruit flavors and pick up notes of Sherry. And if air gets in, air can get out. For sparkling wine, this usually means it will go flat. A helpful way to combat this issue is to make sure you leave the bottle on its side in the fridge. Wine against the cork will help to keep it moist.

In addition to drying out the cork, the cold temperatures in a refrigerator can also damage your wine. Prolonged exposure to cold can dull the flavors, giving your wine a tired and old quality. This is not particularly conducive to enjoyment.

All of that being said, the claim that leaving a bottle of sparkling wine in the refrigerator for more than 8 hours will ruin it is completely untrue. Liquor stores with cold boxes leave their sparkling wines in there much longer than 8 hours. If this ruined the wine, they would have customer complaints all the time.

It only takes about 3 or 4 hours in the fridge for a bottle of bubbly to reach optimal drinking temperature (45° - 50° F), so ideally you don't want it in there longer than that. However, I have left bottles in the fridge for a few months on several occasions and have not once had a bad experience. Keep them on their sides to keep the corks moist and most of the time you'll be just fine. In fact, I keep one or two bottles of bubbly in the fridge at all times - because when it's time to drink I simply don't have the patience to wait.

If you're creeping up on more than a few months, you need to drink the bubbly. It's liquid, not a baby. If you keep waiting for the perfect special occasion, you'll never drink it - or it will be bad by the time that you do. Make a random Tuesday night special simply due to the fact that you're drinking a great bottle.

Wine doesn't like temperature fluctuations, so if you buy it cold at the liquor store, put it in the fridge. If you buy it at room temp, store it somewhere cool and dark until you're getting ready to drink it. If you don't have anywhere cool and dark, just pop it in the fridge and set a date in the near future for bubbly fun!

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