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Champagne Making

 

 

The Champagne region is located approximately 90 minutes northeast of Paris, France.  Its northern geographic position, harsh climate, chalky sub-soil, erratic sunshine, and limited harvest combine to create a one-of-a-kind terroir.  That’s why Champagne wines can only be produced in Champagne, France.

 

Legally defining the Champagne appellation took almost 30 years, from 1905 to 1936.  Since then, the Champagne “AOC” (Appellation of Controlled Origin) has worked to protect the region’s name from misuse and ensure that the wine produced is of the highest quality.  Regulations have been enacted by the appellation to regulate grape pruning, the height, the spacing and the density of the vines, to ensure harvesting by hand, and to govern the winemaking process, always aiming at improving Champagne quality.

 

Champagne can only be called champagne when it is produced in the Champagne region.

 

 

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Making Champagne


· Harvest: The grapes for fine sparkling wines are still harvested and sorted by hand.


· Pressing: Grapes are gently pressed to extract the juice and pulp. Yeast is added to the juice for the first alcohol fermentation.


· Clarifying and First Fermentation: Clarifying (filtering the wine through cloth): In modern winemaking, the pressed juice and newly fermented wine is allowed to settle in tanks to remove grape solids, yeast cells, and other impurities.


· Second Fermentation: After the first fermentation, yeast and sugar are added to the young wine before it’s sealed in heavy glass bottles. The yeast performs a second bubble fermentation in the bottle.


· Riddling: After the yeast cells have finished their work, they must be removed from the bottle. This process starts with riddling, turning the bottles in these special racks to move the yeast up to the neck of the bottles. This step is now usually done by machines. Bottles are turned 1/8th at a time in 3 different positions: horizontal, 45˚ & vertical.


· Disgorging: After riddling, the yeast migrates into the neck of the bottle. Workers release the cap and the yeast and some of the wine goes flying out. This step is now done by machines.

 

· Dosaging & Corking: To replace the wine lost during disgorging, a special mix of sugar and aged wine called dosage is added to the bottle. The concentration of sugar depends on the style of wine: brut has very little or no sugar added, extra-dry is a bit sweeter, and demi-sec and sec are much sweeter.

 

· Labeling and Packaging: Champagne and sparkling wine have a wire cage holding the cork in the bottle. Without this cage, corks could fly off because of the pressure inside the bottles (6 BAR).

 

 

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Champagne grapes

 

 

Three types of vines are authorized to be cultivated for use in Champagne: Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier whose black grapes will give white juices will come to be harmonized with those of the white grapes of Chardonnay. The choice of type of vine must comes from which will grow and develop best in the soil where it is planted.

 

 

· Chardonnay is a white grape. It has a high acidity and the wines produced using it have a very long life. In Champagne; where it is tended with expert care and reverence, they consider it a king of grapes, and it charges a high premium. When Champagne is made from 100% Chardonnay, the Champagne is labeled Blanc de Blancs (literally: white of whites).

 

· Pinot Noir is a black grape. It is not as long lived as Chardonnay but can impart far more complex flavours. As Champagne is a white sparkling wine, when it is made from 100% Pinot Noir or a Pinot Noir and Meunier mix, the Champagne is labeled Blanc de Noir (Literally: White of Black).

 

· Pinot Meunier is a black grape. It is a harder grape, which has the great advantage in Champagne of budding late and ripening early, thus avoiding frost in spring and rain in autumn. It also yields 10 to 15 percent more fruit than Pinot Noir. Pinot Meunier has a slightly higher natural acidity than Pinot Noir and gives some brightness, fruitiness to Champagne blends. On the other hand, it is lower in color and tannin than Pinot Noir. Wines that use Meunier in their blend are not as long-lived.