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Serve Champagne and Sparkling Wines

Sparkling wine and Champagne present unique storage challenges. Some people argue that sparkling wines can acceptably be stored upright and the gasses of the wine will carry enough moisture to keep the cork healthy. There is some evidence that upright may be slightly better under some circumstances, but horizontal storage is by far more space-efficient and will definitely keep the corks more hydrated. Sparkling wine, particularly Champagne, can be aged 2-10 years with good results. Bottles recently recovered from a 200 year old shipwreck were recently pronounced excellent by tasters, but we wouldn't suggest you go to those extremes.

Like all wine, Champagne and other sparklers want to be stored in a cool, dark and humid environment. Sunlight and vibration should be minimized, a 60-70% relative humidity should be maintained, and temperatures should stay below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Sparkling wine should probably stay in the cooler portions of your wine cellar, usually near the floor. Since Champagne bottles are thicker than standard Bordeaux bottles and shaped slightly differently, you will need to make sure you have wine racks that will fit those bottles. Universal racking is common in wine cabinets, and most will specify whether they fit Champagne bottles.

Champagne and other sparkling wines are always served chilled. They will be at their best around 45 degrees or even a bit cooler, so put the bottle in the refrigerator for a couple hours or use the cooler zone of a dual-zone wine refrigerator. After opening the bottle of Champagne or sparkling wine, use an ice bucket to keep it chilled while you drink it.

Champagne is traditionally served in Champagne flutes, and these work well for other sparklers as well. The choice of glass actually has a strong effect on the bubbles. Carbon dioxide doesn't fully release from the wine until it hits the dry surface of the glass, a process called nucleation. Some Champagne flutes are laser etched to encourage this process. The narrow mouth of the glass helps direct the bubbles up towards the drinker for maximum enjoyment.

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