Champagne is often associated with celebrations, luxury, and popping the cork in a grand style at parties. At parties or fancy restaurants, you may also have seen bartenders lighting high ABV alcohol or spirits on fire as part of a show, or in a special cocktail or dish. But is champagne a flammable alcohol as well?
In this article we’ll clarify the question around champagne flammability, and look at how it compares to other flammable alcohols.
Is champagne a flammable liquid?
No, champagne is not flammable. In fact, it’s much lower in alcohol content than other spirits like whiskey, vodka, or rum, which are known to be flammable in certain cases if their ABV (alcohol by volume) percentage is high enough.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), any liquid that has an alcohol content above 40% is considered potentially flammable. But champagne only has around 11-12% alcohol content. So, you don’t have to worry about your champagne catching fire due to its relatively low alcohol content.
Is other wine flammable?
Like champagne, most wines including other sparkling wines, still red wine, and still white wine are not flammable because of their low alcohol content. The process of creating alcohol in wine naturally by fermenting grapes does not allow the alcohol content to naturally reach a flammable level.
However, there are some fortified wines like sherry, port, and vermouth, which have higher alcohol content due to added alcohol, and can be flammable in the right conditions. But even then the alcohol content must be high enough and ignition sources must be close enough to the liquid to catch it on fire, so it’s not a common occurrence outside of beverages with higher alcohol content like whiskey and vodka.
How much alcohol is needed for liquid to be flammable?
Any liquid containing more than 16% alcohol is considered highly flammable and can ignite when exposed to a heat threshold. For perspective, whiskey and vodka often have around 40% alcohol content, and Bacardi 151 rum has about 75% alcohol content. With this context in mind, champagne is not even close to being in the highly flammable range.
Flammability and Alcohol “Proof”
It is definitely possible for alcoholic beverages to catch fire if their alcohol content is high enough.
Historically, alcohol was said to be 100 “proof” if it could easily catch on fire and burn when lit with a match. An alcoholic beverage of 100 “proof” corresponds to roughly 50% ABV – which means that anything with this level of alcohol is definitely highly flammable. Above this level of alcohol content, liquid will not only burn but expand explosively, spreading outside of its container. It can be difficult to extinguish quickly before it burns itself out.
At lower alcohol levels such as 80 proof (or 40% ABV), the alcohol may catch on fire but will likely burn more slowly with a low, blue flame. It’s usually much easier to put out, and a small flame will often easily stop burning itself from even a small puff of wind.
Staying safe with flammable alcohol
If you’re going to drink alcohol with high enough proof that it is flammable, use extreme caution around flame, and don’t light any alcohol on fire without serious planning and safety precautions, which are beyond the scope of this article.
Pure alcohol and flame is extremely dangerous. Even experienced bartenders who have a lot of practice with flaming cocktails have had dangerous incidents and injuries when the flame didn’t behave as they expected. Use extreme caution and definitely don’t mess around with this if you’ve had too much to drink.
Is champagne OK in the heat?
You might have heard that champagne should be kept in a cool and dark place to preserve its flavor, and some might even say that it can’t handle the heat. The first reason is that excessive heat and exposure to sunlight can negatively impact the taste and quality of champagne. However, it’s not going to make the wine catch fire..
Even though champagne isn’t flammable in heat, there is another danger. Champagne bottles contain a high amount of pressure due to the carbon dioxide inside that creates the champagne’s bubbles. When champagne gets hot (for example, in a hot car in the summer) the pressure increases and can lead to the glass bottle exploding. It’s also important to avoid sudden swings in temperature because this can also weaken the glass.
That said, while an exploding bottle poses a danger from flying shards of glass, it’s still not going to catch on fire.
Conclusion: Facts and Flammability
There you have it, the myth around champagne being flammable officially debunked. While it’s always good to double-check and verify facts, it’s crucial to rely on credible sources and not fall for rumors and hoaxes. Drinking wine and storing wine bottles is thankfully not a fire hazard, since it’s just not really possible to see wine catching fire in normal conditions.
Champagne is a unique and enjoyable type of sparkling wine, and you don’t need to worry about it catching on fire. So go ahead, pop the cork, and enjoy your champagne without any scary visions of champagne on fire. The main factors with champagne safety are to not drink too much, handle the bottle carefully, and keep the cork pointed away from people (including yourself) when opening. Cheers!