How Champagne is Made

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007 at 12:00 am

Champagne is probably one of the most popular of wines known worldwide. In fact this popular sparkling wine is probably more recognizable than the other types of wines out there. How it is made is usually a different process that is being employed in the production of either the typical red or white wine. And the fact that Champagne is also known as a "bubbly" would require a process that other types of wines are not privy of.

Firstly, there are three types of grape varieties that are usually used to produce Champagne. Although there are other obscure grape varieties that are being made into Champagne in relatively small quantities, the major grapes being used for large-scale production are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and the Pinot Meunier. These grapes are then fermented and produced into still wines, or wines that contain no carbon dioxide in them. The still wines are assembled and classified and then goes through a process of creating the fizz in the wine through what is known as the "Methode Champenoise".

The "Methode Champenoise" is an effective process of introducing the carbonation of the wine that will eventually make it into Champagne. This is done by first taking a bottle of still wine that is appropriately blended according to a certain style. It is important to ensure that the still wine is encased in a thick and strong wine bottle that will be able to withstand the increased pressure that will be created during the carbonation process.

After an appropriately blended still wine has been chosen, a solution composed of sugar and yeast known as "liqueur de triage" is added into the wine after which the bottle is sealed with an airtight cap, much like that of a beer bottle. The wine is then allowed to stand for some time, usually lasting several years in order to allow the yeast to ferment the sugar. This process allows more alcohol to be created along with carbon dioxide. Since the bottle has an airtight seal, the carbon dioxide cannot escape and is held under pressure until it dissolves into the wine. At this point, the pressure inside the bottle may reach about 80-90 psi, three to four times the air pressure found in the average automobile tire. The lees or the dead yeast cells inside the wine bottle will also impart some richness into the ensuing sparkling wine.

As the wine is left standing for some time, the bottle is turned gradually over time and tapped. It is turned up to a point where the bottle ends up with its neck facing down. This allows the lees or the dead yeast cells to sit somewhere at the neck of the bottle for easy removal later on. This process is known as riddling or "remuage" in French. When this has been done, the bottle neck is then placed in a freezing brine that freezes the part of the sparkling wine containing the dead yeast cells. When this has been done, the bottle cap is opened and the frozen plug of wine containing the lees is removed. This process is known as "degorgement". The remaining wine is then topped with a bit of sweet wine and then sealed again with a cork, along with a ready bottle of Champagne ready for enjoyment.