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Jan 3, 2008 08:22 AM

Flat Champagne?

I opened a bottle of Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve on New Year's Eve. It was 5 or so years old, but we have kept it in our wine fridge, so storage should not have been a huge issue. It was non-vintage. When we poured it into our glasses, there was almost no fizz. There were a few bubbles but they were minimal. The champagne itself tasted like champagne, but it was odd without the bubbles. Any explanations? Did we wait too long to open the bottle? But then if that were the case, would the wine tasted off as well? Thanks for your consideration!

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  1. I just read an article about Champagne - it said that as Champagne gets older it does lose it's effervescent quality and, well, gets flat.

    But as your bottle was only 5 years old and properly stored, I don't know what the explanation might be. I'm curious also!

    1. Maybe there was absolutely nothing wrong with your champagne. I once opened a bottle of Dom Perignon (almost out of the store) and there was a traditional 'pop' when I uncorked it but the bubbles were minimal - it was so obvious I noticed it right away. The taste,aromas however were heavenly (no way it was 'flat') - at least for someone who never befored tried any champagne > $12. And then I open some cheap bottle of champagne and there is almost too much fizz .. go figure.

      1. I went to a Champagne tasting class once a few years ago and was told that unseen soap residue in a glass can cause the Champagne to lose its bubbles.

        1. Key other piece of info is whether the cork 'popped' when removed (even if you open it carefully under control, you should feel the pressure).
          If not - you just had a bad seal and the pressure inside dropped to the point that most of the fizz dispersed.
          A bad glass could potentially cause a release of almost all bubbles - but in that case the wine would foam up - maybe 3-4 times as much volume in the glass before subsiding (fairly quickly).
          Heidsieck does not appreciably lose bubbles in 5 years (IMO - and I've had it regularly). The only 'low-fizz' style is known as Cremant - it contains roughly half the bubbles of regular (it's at half pressure). But typically, even an average quality bottle will sustain its bubbles for 20 years or more, but you should be totally safe at 10 years (had an 82 recently that was in great shape).
          For REALLY old champagnes say 25 + years a trick is to have a bottle of a younger version available. For my 50th we opened a bottle of Moet from my birth year (OK, I had held up better!) so we added about 1/2 as much of new wine to the old in each glass - it transformed the older wine and was a great way to salvage what might otherwise have been a disappointing occasion. The exuberance of youth married to the complex maturity (but less effervescence) of age.
          Hmm - didn't mean to make it sound like a mid-life crisis!

          1. Love this board!

            I did not open the bottle, so I don't know if it popped. From what I am reading, it seems most likely to be a problem with the seal. And thank you for the trick about mixing the old and new Champagne.

            2 Replies
            1. re: moh

              The wine may have been older than you have had it for 5 years but how long did the retailer and supplier have it before it got to you? There is no way to tell with NV Champagne especially from a big house like Heidsieck that is why I tend to drink Non Vintage wines from small growers.

              1. re: bubbles4me

                Point well taken... And indeed, maybe I had it for longer than I thought? I was surprised to see in in the fridge, so perhaps its been there longer than I remember? Let that be a lesson for all of us: Drink our Champagne today! Which reminds me, I'd better get to a few other bottles in the fridge soon.