The best known bubbles in the world take their richness and price from the unique and old production technique. But how Champagne is made ?
- Base wine is obtained by leading normal fermentation.
- A solution of yeast and sugar is added to a bottle and after closing with a cap it is placed on special shelves.
- Secondary fermentation occurs. In this process the bubbles are made.
- After consuming all the sugar, the yeast dies. Now the aging on the “less” starts (on the dead yeast sediment). The more it ages that way, the less fresh and fruity the wine is. Instead it develops more bread and marzipan flavours.
- The bottles are flipped in a way that the sediment gathers in a neck of a bottle (Remouage).
- The sediment is thrown out a bottle by preassure after (Degorgement).
- Specific amount of sugar and wine solution is added to assure required level of sweetness (Dosage).
Why it matters ?
Methode champenoise (production method of Champagne wines in other wine regions known as metode traditionale) has about 300 years of history and tradition. Champagne wine is a sparkling white wine, that can be produced only in a Champagne wine growing region in France. There are only three grapes that are allowed to produce the base wine for the Champagne: Pinot Noir (red), Chardonnay (white), Pinot Meunier (red). Because of cool climate, the wines made from local grapes are very acidic. Natural acidity helps retain freshness and balance of final wine.
There are two types of Champagne: White and Rose. White Champagne made entirely from red grapes is called Blanc de Blanc and the one made with red grapes is called Blanc de Noirs. By law, the Champagne wines are required to spend specified minimum time while aging on the less. Non vintage – 13 months, Vintage – 3 years of aging.
Vintage Champagne is often declared in special years, when the climate conditions and harvest resulted in special quality wines. Non vintage Champagne is a blend of wines from different vintages or a single vintage but can’t be labelled as such. These are the wines from other years, when the harvest was bad or average.
Method of producing a sparkling wine mentioned above is called the traditional (Champenoise) method. This process creates a inside gas pressure of 6-7 atmospheres under the cap. Bubbles made with traditional method are smaller and tend to endure much more time, than the ones present in other sparkling wines.
Check out my entry about sweetness in champagne for further informations.
All other wines with bubbles can’t be labeled as Champagne by law. When looking for a value bottle, check Spanish Cava or France Cremant wines. When searching for a great alternative, reach for Franciacorta.