Should you store Champagne upright or laying down?

When it comes to storing Champagne or sparkling wine, there are two main schools of thought – storing the bottle upright, or storing it laying down on its side. Both approaches aim to keep the bubbles in sparkling wines preserved and prevent them from going flat over time. So which is better – upright or on its side? Here’s a look at the pros and cons of each method.

Upright Storage

Storing Champagne bottles upright is the more traditional method that has been used for centuries. Here are some of the potential benefits of upright storage:

  • Prevents cork from getting wet – Storing bottles upright keeps the cork dry, which may help prevent it from expanding and losing its seal over time.
  • Prevents sediment build up – Sediment naturally collects in the bottom neck of the bottle over years of aging. Keeping the bottle upright prevents this sediment from getting stirred up and poured into the glass.
  • Easy access – Upright bottles are easier to grab and open when you’re ready to serve them.
  • Space efficient – Upright storage takes up less space side-to-side on a shelf or in the refrigerator.

However, there are some potential downsides to upright storage as well:

  • Cork dries out – While keeping the cork dry has benefits, it can also cause the cork to shrink over a long period of time, increasing the risk of oxidation and spoiled wine.
  • Bubbles escape – With upright storage, the carbon dioxide bubbles in the wine are more likely to rise to the top and escape through the cork over time.

Laying Bottles Down

The traditional method of storing champagne and sparkling wine bottles is placing them horizontally on their sides. Here are some of the reasons this is often recommended:

  • Keeps cork moist – Laying the bottle on its side keeps the cork moist with wine, which helps maintain a tight seal and prevent leakage of gas or oxygen over time.
  • Minimizes bubble loss – Keeping the wine in contact with the cork prevents CO2 bubbles from floating to the top and escaping through the cork, helping preserve the wine’s effervescence.
  • Protects against sediment – Sediment settles in one place at the side of the bottle instead of risking disruption at the neck each time the bottle is moved.

However, there can also be some drawbacks to storing bottles on their sides:

  • Cork degradation – While moisture preserves the cork seal, too much moisture can also cause the cork to break down and crumble over many years of storage.
  • Trickier access – Having to tilt bottles to pull them off a shelf can disturb sediment and make access cumbersome.
  • Takes up more space – Lying down takes up more shelf space side-to-side compared to standing upright.

The Ideal Storage Conditions

In addition to bottle orientation, there are some other storage factors to consider for optimal preservation of Champagne and sparkling wines:

  • Constant cool temperature – Between 45-65°F is ideal. Fluctuations in temperature can expand and contract the wine, pushing it through the cork.
  • Out of sunlight – UV light can damage wines, so a dark storage area is best.
  • High humidity – A humidity level of around 70% helps keep corks from drying out.
  • No vibration – Agitation from vibration can stir up sediment so gentle handling is ideal.

How Long Can Champagne Be Stored?

With proper storage conditions, champagne and other quality sparkling wines can maintain their quality for many years. Here are some general guidelines for maximum storage times:

  • Non-vintage – 1-2 years from release
  • Vintage champagne – 3-5 years from release
  • Prestige cuvée – 10+ years from release

Champagne is at its peak freshness within the first 1-3 years. After around 5 years, flavors evolve into more baked, yeasty notes. The oldest drinkable vintage bottles are typically from 20-30 years ago for most producers.

Signs Your Stored Champagne May Be Spoiled

If champagne is stored improperly for too long, there are some warning signs that it may have spoiled, including:

  • Flat – Lack of bubbles indicates the carbon dioxide has escaped.
  • Off aromas – Smelling vinegary, sherry-like or like nail polish indicates oxidation.
  • Browning – Amber color instead of bright yellow indicates age and oxidation.
  • Leakage – Dried wine on the bottle or damp/moldy cork are red flags.
  • Cloudiness – Particles floating in the wine signify spoilage.

If in doubt, use your senses before drinking a bottle that’s been stored for many years. If the champagne doesn’t look or smell appealing, it’s best not to take the risk of drinking it.

Special Considerations for Other Sparkling Wines

While these general guidelines apply to most sparkling wines, there are a few special cases to consider:

  • Prosecco – Best consumed within 1-2 years; prone to losing bubbles quickly
  • Cava – Can age 2-3 years; carbonation may dissipate over time
  • Cremant – Follow champagne guidelines; store around 3 years max
  • Lambrusco – Best within 1 year; delicate bubbles don’t last
  • Sparkling Rosé – 1-2 year max; especially vulnerable to heat and light

More delicate sparkling wines don’t have the acidity and structure to age as gracefully as champagne. Focus on enjoying these fresh and storing briefly, if at all.

Which Direction Should You Store Champagne?

After considering the pros and cons of upright and horizontal storage, here are some best practices to follow:

  • Short term – Up to 5 years: upright is fine
  • Medium term – 5-10 years: sideways to protect cork
  • Long term – 10-20+ years: sideways in cool cellar conditions
  • Once opened: upright in fridge for 1-3 days max

For champagne you plan to drink within a few years of purchase, upright storage works well for easy access. But for aging several years or decades, laying the bottle on its side helps prolong freshness and bubbles.

Tips for Proper Champagne Storage

Follow these tips for keeping your Champagne and sparkling wine bubble-perfect:

  • Invest in champagne buckets or collars to keep bottles tilted sideways if you lack angled wine racking
  • Wrap bottles in a dark cloth or bag to protect from light if cellar space isn’t available
  • Designate sections of a wine fridge for sparkling storage zones
  • Acclimate bottles to room temp before opening to prevent cork shoots
  • Limit vibration by handling gently and keeping away from noisy appliances
  • Consume within 1-2 days of opening and keep remaining wine cold
  • Discard any bottles with damaged labels, signs of leakage, or clearly past prime

Frequently Asked Questions

Does champagne go bad?

Yes, champagne can go bad if stored improperly for too long. Signs of spoiled champagne include a lack of bubbles, vinegar-like smell, browning color, cloudiness, and leakage around the cork. In general, champagne is best consumed within 1-5 years of production depending on the style.

Should you refrigerate open champagne?

Yes, you should refrigerate open bottles of champagne. The cold temperature helps preserve the carbonation and prevent oxidation. Leftover champagne should be consumed within 1-2 days and kept chilled.

Can champagne bottles be stored standing up?

Yes, champagne can be stored standing upright, especially for short term aging of 5 years or less. The upright position helps maintain a dry cork. For long term aging of decades, sideways storage is best to keep the cork moist.

Does champagne last longer on its side or standing up?

Champagne generally lasts longer when stored on its side rather than standing up. Horizontal storage keeps the cork moist and prevents bubbles from escaping through a dried out cork. Sideways also protects from sediment disruption.

Should you store prosecco standing up or lying down?

Prosecco can be stored either standing up or lying down since it is best consumed within 1-2 years. The short aging time means sediment and bubble loss are lesser concerns. Upright allows easy access while sideways protects the cork.

How long can you store champagne after opening?

An opened bottle of champagne should be consumed within 1-2 days and refrigerated. The bubbles will quickly dissipate after opening so it’s best to enjoy it as fresh as possible. After 3-5 days, oxidation flavors will be noticeable.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to champagne storage, the conventional wisdom of lying bottles on their sides still holds true in most cases to best maintain freshness and effervescence over time. However, for short term aging of 5 years or less, upright storage can also work well and makes bottles easier to access. Just be sure to consume open bottles quickly and store spares properly for bubbly perfect for your next celebration!

Leave a Comment