Sparkling Wines - Champenoise Method
The champenoise technique is known for its two-stage fermentation process. The first stage occurs in a tank or vat, where the wine ferments at a controlled temperature between 18 and 20 degrees Celsius. During this phase, yeast interacts with the sugars present in the must to convert it into an alcoholic beverage. The process produces alcohol and carbon dioxide as byproducts.
Temperature, velocity, and oxygen levels are key factors that influence the fermentation process. Although fermentation is usually carried out in stainless steel tanks or open wooden vats, it can also be done in barrels or directly in the bottle, which is common in the production of sparkling wines. Fermentation is a crucial step in winemaking, and it is important to carefully control the factors that influence it to obtain a high-quality final product.
The Champagne cellars in Reims are famous for their second fermentation technique in the bottle and their disgorgement process. During the second fermentation, a mixture of sugar and yeast is added to the wine to produce CO2, which creates bubbles. The amount of sugar added must be precise to avoid the bottle from exploding. This process is similar to that used in some types of beer. During the second fermentation, sediments form that are removed by tilting the bottles upside down on slotted tables between 20 and 70 degrees.
For several weeks, the bottles are quarter-turned several times a day and placed at more pronounced angles in the grooves of a riddling rack. These actions allow the yeast to mix evenly in the wine and for the sediment to accumulate near the cork in the bottle’s neck. The careful removal of the sediments ensures that the Champagne has a clear and brilliant appearance when served. The second fermentation and disgorgement technique is an important part of the Champagne-making process and is an example of the precision and attention to detail required to create this unique beverage.
The disgorgement technique is essential in Champagne production and consists of removing the sediments that form during the second fermentation in the bottle. To do this, the bottle’s neck is frozen at a very low temperature and uncorked to release the frozen plug that contains the sediments. Then, the bottle is filled with the same Champagne or with a liquor that determines its level of sweetness, and a special cork is used to seal it before it is sold in the market.
The disgorgement date is important in determining the quality of Champagne. In the case of young Champagnes, the disgorgement date should not be more than 1-1.5 years before consumption. For reserve Champagnes, it can be up to 2-3 years before consumption, and for Gran Reserva Champagnes, it can be up to 5 or more years before consumption. It is essential that the disgorgement process is carried out with precision and care to guarantee the quality of Champagne.