Article - RareWine Academy

How Long Can Champagne Be Stored?

When buying Champagne for investment, the question often arises, how long can Champagne be stored? Get the answer here and learn more about Champagne's storage potential.

Champagne with age is one of the most impressive wines you can imagine. That is precisely why it is also a category of wines that it truly makes good sense to invest in. However, it is far from all Champagnes that are suitable for investment. Most can, however, be stored for years with noble taste experiences as a result.

Below you can read more about the different phases of a Champagne's storage; from the time it starts as grapes on the vine, until it is finished and ready for enjoyment in the cellar.

The Three Phases Of Champagne Maturation

The starting point, when talking about Champagne maturation, is a base wine made from grapes harvested in the Champagne region in the northern part of France. The wine has at this point undergone the first fermentation, which is the alcoholic fermentation.

Champagne goes through three different phases in terms of storage and maturation:

1. First, it is stored in a tank (or barrel) before mixing.
2. Next, it is matured with sediment for a longer period in the cellar before final disgorging. This is where the wine undergoes 2nd fermentation.
3. By disgorging, dead yeast cells are removed and the final degree of sweetness is determined after which we can buy the champagne and follow its development on the bottle.

The last phase is definitely the most interesting from an investment point of view. First, briefly about the two first phases.

1. Storage In Steel Tank Or Oak Barrel In The Cellar

In the cellar, Champagne is usually stored in a steel tank to preserve as much freshness as possible. Some producers store in older oak barrels, to add more complexity to the champagne. Bollinger and Selosse are two of the best-known examples who use this method. The wine stays on these tanks or casks until the cellar master mixes the base wine for the final Champagne.

In the most extreme cases, such as Krug, wine from 10 different vintages, and over 100 plots are used in a specific wine. Each element adds its fingerprint to the final wine. The longer the wine stays still here, the more complexity it gets which is expressed in the final cuvée. Normally the producer will proceed within six months from this point.

2. Second Fermentation Of Champagne

The next step in the lifecycle of champagne is the time in the bottle where the famous second fermentation takes place. The minimum requirement is that the bottle is stored for 12 months before disgorging, and a further 3 month before release, but all major champagnes are stored for a longer period. The best, such as Cristal, have been stored for well over 8 years.

Inside the bottle, two significant processes occur as a result of the second fermentation. The fermentation creates carbon dioxide and thus bubbles and pressure inside the bottle. The dead yeast cells settle to the bottom of the bottle and help to create autolytic notes, in a process where bread-like notes develop in the Champagne. The longer the Champagne stays here on the lees, the better expression of the bubbles in the final Champagne.

Champagne stored for second fermentation in the cellar of Pol Roger Champagne stored for second fermentation in the cellar of Pol Roger

3. Disgorgement And Storage Of The Finished Champagne

Removal of the dead yeast cells is called disgorging. After that, dosage is added, which is a combination of wine and sugar. This will determine the final sweetness and style of the wine. From here, the real development of the Champagne in the bottle begins.

The absolute best Champagnes have already been in the cellar for a long time when they are released, but still, they have a great potential ahead of them. The wines are usually between 5 and 10 years in the cellar before disgorging, which also helps to create a better wine. When these wines come into the market, it is similar to a grand cru white Burgundy of the latest vintage, which also needs to age before it shows all its nuances.

Most of these top Champagnes will not reach their full potential until they are approximately 20 years old, but they can easily develop beautifully for up to 50 years. Also, the prices increase slowly during the first couple of years after release and then start escalating more evidently later on. Just after release supply is abundant and prices are low. After a few years steady consumption will make sure that the prices are increasing and so is the demand as the Champagne is getting closer to reach its full potential. 

Of course, everything depends on the producer and the vintage. Also, very old champagnes rise in price, as affection value and rarity suddenly also come into play.

Buy Young And Sell (Or Enjoy) Later

As an investor with Champagne in your portfolio, you can sleep tight at night. It is not without reason that Champagne is often described as the wine's response to government bonds. The consumption of Champagne is huge worldwide and the popularity has hardly been greater. Even the numerous and innovative Chinese have gradually opened their eyes to the golden drops, and here it is especially the best and most prestigious Champagnes that are in demand.

To find Champagne that is suitable for investment, you typically have to look at the greatest prestige cuvées and the best vintage Champagnes. Among the greatest names are Salon, Cristal, Krug, Dom Pérignon, Bollinger and Winston Churchill from Pol Roger and more.

In addition, considerable increases in Champagne prices are forecast from several quarters within the next 10 years. Both production costs and the vineyards in Champagne have increased significantly more in the last 20 years than the actual prices of a bottle of champagne, which you can read much more about in this analysis of the champagne market. 

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