Christmas holidays are a procession of fine foods – but naturally also delicious drinks. Carbonation is the common factor in sparkling wine, prosecco, champagne and beer. Given this, the question about the shelf-life of carbonated drinks regularly comes up at the end of the year. TÜV SÜD’s experts provide tips on correct storage to keep the fizz in the bottle for longer.
From that expensive bottle of champagne that has been sitting in the cellar waiting for the right occasion to the as yet unopened bottle of beer from the home-made Advent calendar, any drink will be a disappointment if the contents of the bottle have lost their sparkle or gone flat.
Festive drinks such as beer, wine, alcopops and other alcoholic mixed drinks will not keep forever despite their alcohol content. These beverages, even though in perfect condition when sold, are sensitive to external influences. Causes of changes in quality include excessively long storage periods, incorrect storage, changes in the product caused by minute amounts of oxygen in the bottle, and the influence of light (particularly fluorescent lamps). If the bottles are stored for far longer than the standard two-year shelf life, the flavouring substances will be reduced or change over time. In addition, as small amounts of carbonic acid are constantly escaping from the bottle, the sparkling drink will slowly lose its fizz.
To prevent this from happening prematurely, sparkling wine is best stored in an upright position. Many consumers are also unaware that wine racks made of stone or terracotta may scratch the outside surface of glass bottles. Consumers storing their expensive beverages in these types of racks should make sure to place the bottles carefully inside instead of pushing them. Always make sure that the crown seals, corks or wire cages are undamaged.
As sparkling wine is very sensitive to light, it should be stored in the dark. Open bottles should immediately be closed with a champagne stopper to prevent the fizz from escaping. However, even with one of these special stoppers, sparkling wine will still go flat and lose its bouquet after a maximum of one day.
From a microbiological perspective, beer is very unlikely to spoil. However, not even Christmas beers should be allowed to reach any great age. To retain its freshness of taste and body, beer must be protected against loss of carbonic acid, clouding and loss of flavours. Beer is sensitive to major temperature fluctuations, movement such as shaking, and light. When stored for too long, it changes its colour and taste. The brew should be stored in a cool dark place at temperatures of 5 to 15 degrees.
The shelf life of beer depends on the type of beer and its manufacturing procedure. A significant loss in flavour may be noticeable after as little as three to six months. The following rule of thumb applies to shelf life: beers with higher alcohol content (e.g. bock beer) have a longer shelf life than beer with lower alcohol content. Hoppy beer such as pilsner can also be stored for somewhat longer. Pasteurisation (heat treatment) likewise increases the shelf life of beers. The method is used particularly for beers intended for global export as it increases the shelf life by up to twelve months. However, pasteurisation is always at the cost of taste. Given this, some breweries forego pasteurisation and specify a shelf life of only 3 months. Some manufacturers state that they do not use pasteurisation, or give the date of filling in addition to the minimum shelf life on the bottle.
Further information about TÜV SÜD is available at www.tuv-sud.com/foodsafety.
Press contact: Carolin Eckert