Sparkling Wines and Champagne: 2. How to Make Champagne

Posted by on Dec 31, 2011 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Sparkling Wines and Champagne: 2. How to Make Champagne

If you're just joining us, welcome to the three-part blog series, Sparkling Wine and Champagne; if you missed the first part, 1. The Origins of Champagne, be sure to check that out.

With regards to the approaches used today for making sparkling wine, there are three methods: the traditional, transfer, and tank methods. In this blog we’ll take a quick look at each method and explore the differences between the three.

Traditional:

• The first step is to create a variety of still wines with high acidity, moderate alcohol, and some crispness. This is what is known as first fermentation. Some of the more common grapes used for making sparkling wine would be Pinot noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay.
• After the initial still stage, it’s up to the winemaker to create the style they are going for by blending different varietals. The combinations are endless, but a couple styles that represent the polarities would be a “Blanc de blanc” (sparkling wine made from all grapes) and “Blanc de noirs” (made from all black grapes.)
• At this stage the wine maker will add a wine cocktail of sugar, yeast, and a clarifying agent into the empty wine bottle. Then they add the wine blend to the bottle which starts the second fermentation. This is what inspires the presence of the muse (bubbles.)
• The bottles will then be stored horizontally in order to allow the sediment to fall to the base of the bottle. Eventually the bottles are rotated in a 45 degree angle forcing the sediment to the neck of the bottle. This process can take anywhere from 16 months to more than 10 years depending on the quality of sparkling wine.
• Once the sediment is in the neck of the bottle then they will freeze the neck of the bottle in order to capture all of it. Since the bottle has a lot of pressure in it, once they open it the frozen sediment will shoot out of the bottle. They will then top up the bottle, cork it, and ship off to stores.

Transfer Method:

• The transfer method is exactly the same as the Traditional method except they don’t try to capture the sediment in the bottle; instead they put all the sparkling wine in a pressurized tank and transfer it to new bottles.
• This method is a cheaper process and usually found in more affordable sparkling wines.
• The muse (bubbles) is usually not as elegant and fine as the Traditional method.

The Tank Method:

• This is the most common way most sparkling wines are made in the world.
• In this process the second fermentation takes place in a tank versus a bottle.
• The sparkling wine is filtered under pressure before going into bottles.
• Larger producers of sparkling wines use this method as it’s more affordable for mass production.
• Usually find this type of method is used for fruitier styles of sparkling wine such as Italian Prosecco.

All three methods produce good quality sparkling wine. The differences come down to the subtleties surrounding the bottling process which in turn affect the minute differences in taste. Like Dom, experiment with a few different techniques to see which one works the best for your palate.

Next Blog...

On that note we’re going to move onto the third blog in this blog series, 3. Champagne in France; Sparkling Wine Around The World, in which we will explore the different styles in which you can expect to see Champagne on the racks of a cellar, wine store, vineyard, or amidst the flying confetti of a New Years celebration, be in Champagne, an other area of France, or anywhere else in the world.

About Dave Keighron

Dave Keighron has written 63 posts in this blog.

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