Yesterday, I made a brief overview of how Champagne is made, however below explains the step-by-step process in which it is produced.
*This is the traditional process of making Champagne, which is called “Méthode Champenoise“.*
- The first alcoholic fermentation. Conversion of sugar into alcohol and Carbon Dioxide by yeast. Only a maximum of 15% of alcohol can be produced in this step.
- The second alcoholic fermentation – the most important step of the production of Champagne. After La Cuvée has been selected (the process of selecting the base. Chardonnay is pure white grape, Pinot Noir is a mixture of several grape varieties and Pinot Meunier is pure black grape.), sugar (4g (approx.) per litre), yeast and the nutrients from yeast are added to the concoction called the Tirage, and put into a thick walled glass bottle and sealed with a cap. This slowly ferments, producing alcohol and CO2 – this cannot escape as it is sealed, therefore producing the sparkle of Champagne.
- As the fermentation proceeds, yeast cells die and after several months the fermentation is complete. The Champagne now continues to cool for several years. During this time, the yeast cells split open to spill their contents into the solution. *The best and most expensive Champagnes are aged for at least five years.*
- After the ageing process is complete, the dead yeast cells are removed in the process called Riddling. The bottle is places upside down in a holder at a 75 degree angle. Each day, a riddler comes through the cellar to turn each bottle by 1/8th, whilst still upside down. This forces the dead yeast cells to the neck of the bottle – therefore removed from the concoction.
- The neck of the bottle is now put into an ice-bath, whilst still upside down, so the formation of a plug of frozen wine containing the dead yeast cells. The cap of the bottle is removed so the pressure of carbon dioxide in th bottle forces the plug of frozen wine out, leaving pure / clear Champagne. This is Disgorging.
- At this point, the dosage (white wine, brandy and sugar) is added to the adjust the sweetness of the bottle.*
- The bottle is then corked, and the cork is wired down to secure the high internal pressure of carbon dioxide.
* Very dry Champagne (ultra Brut), Very sweet (doux), and Brut (the most common).
It is important to point out that the traditional method of making Champagne (which is explained above), is the most expensive way of producing the sparkling wine because it is produced by the bottle, rather than in bulk. In 1910, the Charmat bulk process was invented which is making Champagne in large stainless steel tanks, and is therefore much cheaper.