Sparkling wines are produced with different methods:
The Traditional Method
Champagne. Cremant. Cava.
The Tank Method
The Asti Method
Asti DOCG. Moscato d’Asti.
French names in parantesis ()
Pressing (Pressurage)The grapes are pressed to release the juice.
First FermentationThe juice is transformed into wine (sugar is fermented into alcohol).
Blending (Assemblage)Different wines are blended to create a perfect combination.
Second FermentationThe blended wines are fermented in bottles sealed with a metal cap.
Riddling (Remuage)The bottles are turned very slowly to sink the sediments.
DisgorgementThe top of the bottles are frozen to remove the sediments.
DosageA "dosage" of juice/sugar and spirit is added to the bottle.
Pressing separates the liquid (juice) from the solids (skins, seeds, stems). By gradually increasing the pressure, the juice can be seperated into different qualities.
For Champagne and Crémant the qualities are strictly regulated.
Alcoholic fermentation transforms grape juice into wine
This first fermentation transforms the grape juice into wine. Yeast transforms sugar into alcohol.
Most producers ferment in stainless steel tanks which gives the purest expression of fruit.
Malolactic fermentation transforms malic acid into lactic acid. This fermentation takes place at the end of the alcoholic fermentation. Like all fermentations, it changes the aromas of the wine.
Trying to create a perfect combination
The blending takes place in the winter/spring. Winemakers will taste different wines from different vineyards (or regions), trying to blend the perfect combination.
Typical varieties to blend in Champagne, are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
Non-vintage Champagne can be a blend of wines from different years.
Vintage Champagne must be a blend of wines from the same year.
The second fermentation takes place in the bottle
The second fermentation takes place inside the bottle. The bottle is hermetically sealed with a polyethylene stopper ("bidule") sealed with a metal cap.
The second fermentation is kick-started by adding a "liqueur de tirage". This is a blend of wine, sugar, and yeast cultures.
The fermentation lasts from 6 to 8 weeks, while yeast consumes sugar, creates alcohol, and releases the carbon dioxide that create the bubbles.
With the waste and the dead yeast cells still in the bottle, another year of aging contributes to a more complex flavor profile.
Riddling takes place with the bottles upside down
Riddling involves turning uptilted bottles very slowly to bring the sediments (dead yeast and waste) down to the bottom (to the cap).
Bottles stored on the side are slowly moved to an upside down position, allowing the sediment to slide gradually down to the neck.
Traditionally riddling was done by hand, but today riddling is often automated with a machine (a gyropalette) twisting hundreds of bottles at a time.
Disgorgement is about removing the sediment collected around the cork after riddling.
The neck of the bottle is placed in an ice cold solution (between -25 and -30°C), rapidly frozen and then brought upright to remove the cap.
When the cap (the bidole) is removed, the pressure in the bottle (6 to 8 bars) ejects the frozen sediment out of the bottle.
Dosage refers to the addition of a "Liqueur d'Expedition" to the top of the bottle to regulate sweetness and profile.
Liqueur d'Expedition is a solution of base wine, sugar and sulfites (preservatives).
A sweeter dosage is necessary to balance the acidity. In colder climates, where grapes stuggle to ripen, the wine is very acidic. The dosage balances the acidity:
To withstand the inside presure of 6 to 8 bars, sparkling wines have thicker bottles.
In addition they are corked with a mushroom shaped cork and a wire cage.
Aging refers to the changes in the wine after bottling. The acidity goes down and tertiary aromas develop (honey, peach, beeswax, mushroom, spice).
|Pressing||1st Fermentation||Blending||2nd Fermentation|
Champagne is fermented two times. Once in tanks. Once in the bottle.
White wine is fermented WITHOUT the skins. The grapes are pressed BEFORE fermentation.
Red wine is fermented WITH the skins. The grapes are pressed AFTER fermentation.
Alcohol can be addictive. Drink in moderation.
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