How Champange is Made
Champagne and sparkling wines are made using the Methode Champenoise
a special way of getting the sparkle in the wine. You can read through the
Standard Winemaking Process
to see first
how wines are normally made - this might help you understand better how this
process differs from regular creation of wine.
The first, and most important part of any wine is the grapes. Sparkling Wine
grapes are grown just as any other grape is - carefully tended and cared for.
When fall comes, the grapes are carefully harvested.
The grapes used in sparkling wines are typically
Pinot Meunier and Pinot Gris. Some Champagnes are made solely with Chardonnay.
The wine is fermented in a stainless steel tank. It ferments for 2 to 3
weeks, and then sits for up to five months. It is at this point that the
process diverts from the normal winemaking process and becomes special.
When the winemaker decides to move forward, the wine is bottled with extra
sugar and yeast, and capped with a soda-cap. This process can go from
one year to three years or more. When this second
fermentation and resting period are over, the yeast and sediment must be
removed from the bottle.
The bottles are put into a riddling rack,
which slowly rotates the now-re-fermenting wine from a horizontal position
up to a vertical one. This allows the sediment from the second fermentation to
slowly slide down into the neck of the bottle, for easy removal.
Can you see the yeast down by the neck of this one?
The removal process is called disgorgement. The neck of the bottle
is stuck into this machine, which freezes it. When the cap is removed,
the frozen plus of sludge is kicked out, a "dosage" of Champagne is added
to fill in the space in the bottle, and it is corked with the standard,
large Champagne cork.
Note that the cork does not start out in its wide-thin-wide shape -
it starts out as a straight 'tube' shape. It is only the pressure and
system of corking that gives it its mushroom head and flared bottom.