Ask a Sommelier: Bubbly

Q: Once I open a bottle of sparkling wine, will it keep its fizzy sparkle? If so, how long?

A: Depending on conditions, those wonderful bubbles in sparkling wine and Champagne might last a few days, or even longer; at worst, a modest bubbly will be mostly flat by morning—or five minutes after someone shakes the bottle and lets it fly. Here’s why.

First, the quality of the wine matters. The best sparkling wines are made by the Champagne method, from the region in France where it was perfected. It starts with a quality base wine; bubbles are produced by adding a bit of sugar and yeast, creating a second fermentation (and carbon dioxide gas). The gas dissolves in the liquid, the sediment created is eventually removed, and it all happens in the same bottle that you ultimately purchase. Bubbles can also be created in a large, closed tank, or (I shudder to add) by forcing gas into the wine soda-pop style. Generally speaking, the finer the wine, the longer-lasting the bubbles.

How much wine is left in the bottle also matters. If there is a large amount still in the bottle, the bubbles will last longer than if there is almost nothing left. In other words, the more air present for gas to escape into, the faster it escapes.

A few things help to slow down that escaping gas. Champagne stoppers push a tiny bit of air into the bottle, and hold it, saving the wine better than a bit of plastic wrap would do. Inert gas preservers like Private Preserve also help to keep the wine fresh. Placing the bottle upright on the refrigerator or wine cooler shelf (rather than the fridge door that moves every time someone goes in for a snack) also helps.

–Sylvia Jansen, Sommelier

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