From the earliest days of Christianity before the middle-ages wine was declared sacred, only for use in celebrating Holy Communion. The vineyards were then entirely in the hands of the monks.
Champagne wines are exclusively produced from grapes grown, harvested and made into wine within the Champagne delimited region, in France. The grapes used to make Champagne wines possess characteristics not found anywhere else in the world due to the particular geography, soil and climate of the Champagne delimited region.
A natural winemaking process known as the ‘Méthode Champenoise’.
“Beautiful Champagne starts with beautiful grapes.”
Champagne is created with three authorized grape varieties: The black grapes, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier and the white grape, Chardonnay.
From vine to wine, the creation of Champagne requires respect, artistry and humility.
When the grapes have reached full maturity, they are carefully handpicked and swiftly transported to the press. Once the juices have been obtained and clarified, each grape variety is transferred into a stainless steel vat. The stainless steel vats are used to have better control of temperatures during fermentation and also to keep the fruitiness of the wine. The Pinot Noir (black grape), Pinot Meunier (black grape) and Chardonnay (white grape) juices go into their respective stainless steel vats.
“Magic” (primary fermentation)
Each vat now has ‘clear grape juice’. Yeast is added into each vat. The yeast eats the sugar in the ‘clear grape juice’. It then transforms the sugar into alcohol and releases carbon dioxide. The vats are left open which leads to the loss of the carbon dioxide. We now have a still wine in the vat.
Note: If the stainless steel vats were left closed during primary fermentation there would be too much pressure, which could lead to an explosion.
The still wines from the different vats are blended in a giant vat (2,000 hectolitre capacity)
Prise De Mousse (secondary fermentation)
The clear still wine is then transferred into bottles. Yeast and sugar are added to the bottles. The bottles are sealed with a crown cap. Here, the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottles. The yeast eats the sugar. The sugar transforms into alcohol and releases carbon dioxide. As the bottles are sealed, the bubbles are trapped within.
The wine is left to age on its lees (flecks of dead yeast cells/sediments) for thirty months.
Riddling is the act of rotating a Champagne bottle upside down over a period of time. The purpose of riddling is to slowly collect the dead yeast cells into the neck of the wine bottle. The process takes about a week if done by machine (Gyropalettes). It’s more efficient, quicker and qualitative. If done by hand it takes five weeks. The regular bottle (75cl) and magnum (1.5L) are riddled by machine. The half bottles (37.5cl) and Jeroboam (3L) are done by hand.
Once all the lees are collected into the neck of the bottle. The next step is to freeze the neck of the bottle. This freezes the lees into an ice cube. When the cap is opened the pressure pops out the cube of lees (sediments). We now have a bottle of Champagne free of all sediments.
After disgorgement, a small amount of wine and sugar is added to each bottle of Champagne. This is done to replace the liquid volume lost (the ice cube of lees that popped out) during disgorgement and to sweeten the Champagne as there’s no sugar in the bottle. The sugar added to the bottle during the ‘prise de mousse’ (secondary fermentation) was consumed by the yeast. The amount of sugar added depends on the cuvée. For Extra Brut its 6 g/l sugar, Brut is 12 g/l sugar and the Demi Sec is 50 g/l sugar.
The bottles are then corked, labelled and delivered for tasting.