So you’ve got a bomb bottle of champage, but your happy hour date just cancelled. Certainly you’re not not going to open the bubbly, but it’s definitely a moment to get serious about what to do to preserve the precious two glasses that will be left at the end of the evening. Handling a bottle of champagne destined for drinking over a few days is not as fatal as it sounds, but there are a few surefire things you must do to ensure the carbonation and flavor remains intact. Let’s discuss.
When to Use a Stopper for Sparkling Wine
Use a champagne bottle stopper for any style of effervescent wine that’s been opened and intended for drinking over one or two days. It’s imperative to use the right kind of enclosure to retain carbonation, acid, and aromatic and flavor compounds. Make sure to have a sparkling wine stopper on the ready if there’s any doubt about an opened bottle not being finished.
Now, don’t fret about keeping an open bottle stopper-ed between regular pours. The most important thing here in preserving the character of the wine is maintaining the chill – ideally 43-50°F but a bit higher is okay, too. Basic physical science indicates that liquid at lower temperatures is more soluble to carbon dioxide, i.e. the bubbles. So it’s a better use of energy to dial in your champagne chilling techniques, before, during and after drinking, than being concerned with repeatedly closing off the bottle between pours.
As long as your champagne is kept steadily chilled, the following key factor is having the proper stopper or troubleshooting method if you find yourself without one.
What is the Best Stopper Style for Champagne?
There are two aspects of wine stopper that will make it ideal for champagne or other sparkling wines. Point one is a hermetic seal. The most common seals are formed via a gasket embedded in the top of the stopper, or a band of rubber around the middle section of the stopper that sits in the bottle. Alternatively, there are also now great designs on the market featuring simple twisting mechanisms that expand or inflate the stopper in the neck of the bottle forming an airtight seal against the glass.
Point two is some kind of latch or wing that secures the stopper to the lips of the bottle. This is very important because once your champagne is re-sealed, the pressure from the carbonation will begin to build again. A stopper without a means to attach to the bottle will almost always pop off in the fridge a few hours after it’s put away, or dangerously in your hands when the bottle is handled again.
One word of caution: never use a wine pump system for sparkling wine. Pumps aim to remove the oxygen from bottles of still wine, but using it on bubbly wine will actually suck out the carbonation, counterproductively flattening the wine.
If you’re trying to take your champagne nerdom to the next level, and you’ve got some prized bottles in the cellar you want to drink over an extended period of time, there is a fancy preservation system on the market that will aid you in your quest. Coravin has released a model intended for sparkling wine, and while it comes with a hefty price tag, it’s every bit worth it to be able to drink a glass of a prestige cuvee every weekend for a month.
Can You Reseal a Champagne Bottle with the Cork?
As you well know, it’s standard practice after opening a bottle of still wine to use its own cork to reseal the bottle. It’s not so easy when it comes to sparkling wine. Champagne corks, and most others used on sparkling wine bottles, are designed to withstand and contain the pressure in the bottle. They are wider than regular corks and become heavily compressed over time in the bottle. When they are removed and no longer subject to pressure they flare out significantly, creating the mushroom-shaped cork we associate with champagne. At this stage, the cork is far too expanded to be used to reseal the bottle of champagne.
Is it Possible to Use a Still Wine Stopper for Champagne?
Stoppers and corks designed for still wines are not adequate for storing an opened bottle of champagne. These enclosures are not designed for wines with carbonation and if used could blow off with force creating a dangerous situation. There is one hack, though, in which a regular cork can play a part if you find yourself without a proper champagne stopper but have a still wine cork laying around. In order to accomplish this you must save the wire cage, or muselet – part of the original enclosure that comes on your champagne bottle.
Simply take the regular, still wine cork and insert it into the champagne bottle far enough so that you can place the wire cage over the top of and the base of the cage reaches one of the lips of the bottle. Simply retwist the cage’s wire around the bottle so that its firmly holding the cork down. This will prevent the cork from blowing off between drinking, but be very careful when unfastening it later. Place a towel and firm hand over this jerry-rigged enclosure when reopening (just as you would when first popping a bottle of champagne) as this slimmer cork will no doubt want to fly out.
How Long Will Champagne Last After Opening?
Unfortunately champagne does not have a great shelf life after having been opened. If you must reseal the bottle, it’s best to try to consume what’s left the following day. With really good champagne bottle stoppers it may be possible to extend the carbonation two days after opening, but certainly the flavor will be much duller by this time.
The most important thing in extending the life of an open bottle of champagne is to keep it consistently and properly chilled before, during and after opening. All else aside, this is the greatest determining factor in preserving carbonation and quality of flavor.
What to Do if You Don’t Have a Champagne Stopper
It’s a sad situation when you’ve got an open bottle of champagne and nothing obvious to stop it with. But there are a few tricks that even the barest kitchen should have the tools in to carry out.
- Plastic wrap & rubber band: place a swath of plastic wrap over the mouth of the bottle and use a rubber band around to cinch it tightly to the neck. This can also be replicated with any similar materials, for instance a plastic bag and string.
- Metal spoon: there are a lot of opinions out there on the efficacy of the spoon method, and they seem firmly divided into the “miracle” and “myth” camps. Some folks swear by it, others say it’s a complete farce. But try it for yourself! Place a metal spoon (it’s said a silver spoon works best but let’s not be picky, this is a pinch solution after all) handle-end down into the neck of the bottle refrigeration like so. The idea is that the metal conducts a cooler temperature than the ambient air in the bottle and forms a cold vacuum the prevents the bubbles from escaping.
- Wine cork & wire cage: as mentioned above, it’s possible to use a regular, still wine cork in an open bottle of champagne if you keep the bottle’s original wire cage to re-attach over it.
We know we’ve said it a million times already, but it can’t be drilled enough: KEEP YOUR CHAMPAGNE CHILLED! Even if all other methods fail and you must, remorsefully, place an open bottle of champagne back in the fridge without an enclosure, there is still a good chance that if having constantly been kept at a proper chill the bottle will have some bubbles the next day.
If your champagne preserving methods all but fail and the wine is next-day undrinkable, don’t waste it! There are loads of recipes that call for champagne specifically but it can easily be used in place of white wine, as well.