The Champagne method

Claire et Jean Baptiste de assis sur des gyropalettes dans les caves du domaine

Vinifying our Grand Crus from Mesnil

The Champagne method, also known as the traditional method, is a technique for producing sparkling wine primarily used in the Champagne region of France. This method is renowned for its complexity and exacting standards, requiring considerable expertise to produce high-quality champagnes. Here is a detailed description of the Champagne method:

Pressing: Grapes are gently pressed to extract their juice, which serves as the base wine for champagne. Pressing is done in a way to preserve the purity of the juice and avoid extracting tannins or bitter compounds from the skins and seeds.

Fermentation of base wine: The grape juice is fermented in stainless steel tanks or oak barrels to produce the base wine. This fermentation can be conducted with native yeasts or selected yeasts, depending on the winemaker’s preferences.

Blending: After fermentation, the winemaker proceeds to blending, which involves mixing different base wines to create the desired flavor profile for the final champagne. This step requires sensory expertise to balance aromatic characteristics, structure, and acidity of the wines.

Bottling with addition of liqueur de tirage: The final blend is bottled in special champagne bottles. At this stage, a small amount of liqueur de tirage (a mixture of yeast and sugar) is added to the wine to induce a second fermentation in the bottle.

Bottle fermentation: The bottles are sealed with cork stoppers and laid horizontally in cellars to ferment for a specific period, typically ranging from several months to several years. During this bottle fermentation, carbon dioxide is trapped, creating bubbles in the wine.

Riddling: Once bottle fermentation is complete, the bottles are gradually tilted and rotated in a process called riddling. This helps to move the dead yeast cells towards the neck of the bottle for subsequent removal.

Disgorging: Once the dead yeast cells have collected in the neck of the bottle, they are expelled using a technique called disgorging. The neck is chilled to form a plug of ice containing the yeast, then the bottle is opened to expel the ice plug, leaving behind a space in the bottle.

Dosage: After disgorging, a blend of wine and sugar called the dosage is added to the bottle to adjust the sweetness level of the final champagne, according to the desired style (brut, dry, demi-sec, etc.).

Final corking: The bottle is then sealed with a cork stopper and wire cage to ensure its airtightness.

The Champagne method is a complex and meticulous process that demands considerable expertise but results in the creation of exceptional champagnes, cherished worldwide for their finesse, complexity, and elegant bubbles.

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