Have you ever wondered what the Stages of Champagne making are? Fret no more. There are several specific steps or phases in the making the sparkling wine of Champagne.These steps are governed by professional bodies and government agencies to adhere to code. See them listed below.
HARVESTING AND PRESSING
Harvest time in Champagne takes place between mid-September and early October depending on the year. The start dates of the harvests vary according to the vineyard. They are determined by Champagne’s professional body based on objective criteria that aim to ensure the wine produced is of optimal quality.
After pressing, the musts are poured into vats where they will be fermented twice (alcoholic and malolactic fermentation).
This consists of blending the wines produced from different grape varieties, vineyards and years in varying proportions. Only millésimé or ‘vintage’ champagnes are blended with wines from a single year. These are only made in good years.
This is the name given to the moment when the wines are bottled. The liqueur de tirage, containing yeast and sugar, are added to provoke a second fermentation. The bottle is then closed with a small hollow plastic seal (called a bidule in French) held in place by a metal crown cap.
THE PRISE DE MOUSSE
This is the second fermentation (literally the ‘foam taking’) that lasts about eight weeks. As during the first fermentation, the yeast consumes yeast and converts it into alcohol. It uses up all the oxygen in the bottle and releases carbon dioxide. This time the gas stays in the wine, making it sparkling.
When the prise de mousse is complete, the yeast dies and forms a deposit whose molecules interact with those of the wine. The ageing period varies according to the blending type and the results sought, but legislation has established fairly long minimum periods in the interests of quality that set champagne apart from other sparkling wines: - 15 months minimum after tirage, of which 12 on lees for non-vintage champagnes. - 3 years for vintage champagnes.
When the champagne is deemed to be sufficiently aged and before it is shipped away in bottles, the deposit that makes the wine cloudy needs to be removed. Riddling (or remuage in French) is a time-honored practice of the traditional method in Champagne that consists of encouraging the deposit to descend to the neck of the bottle so that it can be completely removed. These movements help the heavy deposit to attract the lighter deposit right down to the finest particles and therefore turn the champagne perfectly clear.
Disgorging consists of opening the bottle to remove the deposit. This is done by freezing the neck. The bottles are first turned upside down after riddling. The neck is plunged into a solution at -25°C that freezes the deposit. The bottle is then up-ended and the crown cap taken off. The solid pellet of ice flies out as a result of the pressure (6 bars inside the bottle).
DOSAGE AND LABELING
The small amount of wine lost is replaced by the liqueur de dosage (mixture of wine and sugar syrup), produced by each vintner. The sugar content has a bearing on the type of champagne desired: Brut or Demi-Sec. The bottles are then stopped with a cork held in place by a wire muzzle. The finished bottle will then be washed, dried and returned to the cellar for a minimum of 2 to 3 months to ensure the liqueur and the wine are perfectly blended. The bottles are then labelled and packaged.
Trade Unions :
Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (Champagne Trade Organisation)
Syndicat Général des Vignerons de la Champagne (Champagne Winegrowers Trade Union)
Union des Maisons de Champagne (Union of Champagne Houses)