Can Sparkling Wine Age? You Bet!

This 1987 bottle of Schramsberg Reserve Sparkling Wine still had plenty of golden fruit, along with nutty flavors, when we opened it 26 years later.
This 1987 bottle of Schramsberg Reserve Sparkling Wine still had plenty of golden fruit, along with nutty flavors, when we opened it 26 years later.

So as I looked in my wine fridge for a wine to bring to a holiday dinner, I discovered a bottle of Schramsberg Reserve sparkling wine from 1987.  What a thrilling discovery – vintage bubbly! But I kind of worried too that I had aged it into a bottle of Napa Valley pinot noir vinegar.

Both the front and back labels call it “Napa Valley Champagne.” Back in 1987, a gallon of gas cost 89 cents. The most popular car was the Ford Escort (MSRP $6,895). That was also the year that The Simpsons and FOX Broadcasting debuted and Prozac went on the market. I was barely old enough to drink legally. So much has changed in the past 26 years.

Fortunately, well-made sparkling wine can wait. The wine was a deep golden color with deep notes of golden apple, nuts, toast and Madeira wrapped in mouthwatering acidity. The bubbles were persistent but so very tiny, that we could really enjoy the flavor of the wine. It was beautiful on its own, as well as with Dungeness crab cakes and a juicy pork loin.

I resolved to start aging more sparkling wine – and think you should try it too.

Of course, if that bottle of bubbly you’re thinking of laying down costs under $20, you may have nothing but vintage vinegar at the end of your experiment. But if it’s a fine méthode champenoise wine that was carefully crafted and had some extended contact with yeast in the first place, it absolutely has that potential.

While they don’t have high amounts of tannin or sugar – two factors that allow other cult red wines like Screaming Eagle to age – sparkling wines and champagnes are naturally graced with a high amount of acidity. This acidity helps preserve the wine and allow it to develop in a positive way, just like a great German riesling or white Burgundy.

So next time you go to your favorite winery and pick up a bottle of their special release, consider putting it away in a cool place and forgetting about it for 20 years or so.

The back label says the wine is nutty, toasty and ??   - and it was still true 26 years later.
The back label says the wine is nutty, toasty and well aged – and it was still true 26 years later.