Should sparkling wine be stored on its side or its end?
December 6, 2004 10:18 PM   Subscribe

WineFilter. We have acquired some champagne, the real deal. I always thought wine bottles should be laid on their side to keep the cork wet and sealed, but one of these bottles actually says on the label to store upright. What's best for sparkling wine? On its side, or on its end?
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I immediately grabbed my ancient copy of Amy Vanderbilt's Etiquette: The Guide to Gracious Living to see if she said anything about the correct procedure in her chapter "The Ritual of Drinking." She does confirm what you say in general: "All table wines should be stored on their sides, to keep their corks moist (and uncrumbling), in a cool cupboard, away from the light and from steam pipes. . . . Wine with plastic corks may be stored upright." The separate discussion of champagne only speaks to opening it, and she doesn't exclude it from being served with meals the way she does with port, sherry, and madeira, so I think this instruction may be taken to apply to champagne as well. On the other hand, I would do what the bottle says. (Actually, since I never buy wine except to consume it soon, this isn't something I've ever worried about, and I store everything upright. But that's in my dorm room, where many rules are suspended indefinitely.)
posted by rustcellar at 10:47 PM on December 6, 2004


My husband, who is a bit of a wine connoisseur, says "Sparking wine? Always upright." The biggest reason he can come up with is that there's no need to lay it on its side, since the bigger flared cork fits tighter and doesn't need to stay wet to stay sealed. Most of the wine shops I've been in in London and Sydney seem to sell champers upright, so anecdotally I guess that backs him up.
posted by web-goddess at 10:58 PM on December 6, 2004


A friend who is in wine distribution told me that with champagne, it just doesn't really matter if it's laying flat or upright - I should really be concerned with keeping it fairly cool - so he said to just use whichever direction takes up less valuable real estate in the fridge.
posted by milkrate at 11:01 PM on December 6, 2004


Plausible answer here which I'll quote so you don't have to click through:

According to Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson, it is not necessary to lay down bottles of champagne. The carbon-dioxide saturated headspace in sparkling wine keeps the corks sufficiently moist and swollen. Therefore, it's best NOT to store the bottle on its side and risk the cork contamination that can occur with any bottle of wine when the cork is in direct contact with the wine.
posted by mono blanco at 11:21 PM on December 6, 2004 [2 favorites]


About chilling, Ms. Vanderbilt's other point is that you should never put champagne in the freezer to chill it, and try not to have it in the coldest part of the fridge. (Start about 2 hours before you intend to serve it, apparently.)
posted by rustcellar at 12:47 AM on December 7, 2004


(Start about 2 hours before you intend to serve it, apparently.)

Er, no. To get a 75 cl bottle of champagne cool, it needs about 6 to 7 hours of fridge time, according to Hervé This (the French wizzard of kitchen science - link goes to something more or less unrelated, I got the info out of his book 'Casserolles et Eprouvettes').
posted by NekulturnY at 1:44 AM on December 7, 2004


The separate discussion of champagne only speaks to opening it, and she doesn't exclude it from being served with meals the way she does with port, sherry, and madeira, so I think this instruction may be taken to apply to champagne as well.

Port, sherry, and madeira are wines fortified by (usually local) brandy, and contain alcohol at 18-20%. The addition of the brandy stops fermentation and the residual sugar remains, making fortified wines sweet.
Champagne is a wine fortified only by sugar in a secondary fermentation in the bottle (that's what makes the CO2 in the bubbly). All the residual sugar is turned into alcohol (maybe to reach 12-14%), so good champagne is generally dry (as opposed to sweet).

There is no reason to categorise them together: in other words - drink the champers at breakfast if you like, and hang the petty rulemakers!
posted by dash_slot- at 3:46 AM on December 7, 2004


milkrate - would you email me please (email is in my profile)? I have a request for your friend in wine distribution...
posted by Irontom at 4:54 AM on December 7, 2004


I'm not sure whether this also plays specifically into the label's recommendation, but I do know that while the champagne is being made, the bottle's orientation has a lot to do with managing the sediment (mostly yeast) that precipitates or consolidates over time.

While the bottles are fermenting, they're stored at an upside-down angle, with a temporary cork, and turned slightly every few days. (A process called "riddling", which is apparently part of the widow Clicquot's claim to fame.) This encourages the sediment to collect in the neck, where it's later flash-frozen and popped out ("disgorged") before the traditional mushroom-shaped cork is stamped down.

It's probably moot now, since modern techniques can basically eliminate all sediment from the bottles we buy, but I wouldn't be surprised if the habit of storing champagne upright initially had to do with getting any residual sediment to collect at the bottom of the bottle. Given the point that other people made about the corks, that secondary consideration may have overriden the general habit of storing wine on its side.
posted by LairBob at 4:59 AM on December 7, 2004


in other words - drink the champers at breakfast if you like, and hang the petty rulemakers!

What a fabulous idea.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:27 AM on December 7, 2004


Years ago, while visiting the Chandon Winery, I was told by their cellarmaster to chill champagne (or sparkling wine) as quickly as possible, as close to drinking as possible. Most importantly, never ever store Champagne in the refrigerator. Refrigeration "kills" the finer bubbles, and can make a great Champagne less-than-great. Ice buckets work wonders for chilling something quickly, and to give it a head start, put some rock salt in with the ice (may in the sink, then rinse before you put in the ice bucket by the table/bed).
posted by dbmcd at 9:46 AM on December 7, 2004


Thank you everyone. Clarification: I have no problems on the chilling front, my issue is how best to store it for a few months or a year.

It looks like upright is the way to go in any case.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:40 AM on December 7, 2004


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