03 Jun Why Is Champagne “bubbly”?
Everyone knows there’s something special about Champagne. Sure, it’s a wine, but it also has bubbles and that’s what gives it a distinctive appearance. In their own way, the bubbles help enhance the flavour of the champagne too. Not many are aware of this fact, but champagnes also start out in the manner that all other wines do. They are harvested just like any other wine grapes are; and the change in their path to champagnedom takes place at the first stage of wine fermentation.
The Three Processes
So what is it that lends those bubbles to champagne? To understand this, we have to first understand the processes that are used in champagne making. The 3 different processes used are:
This is essentially the oldest and centuries’ old method that the finest brands tend to follow it. In France, there is a law which states that if producers don’t use this particular process, they won’t be permitted to label the drink as “Champagne”; they would have to label it as a sparkling wine or some other category instead.
The 1st fermentation of the wine is done as usual. As soon as the winemaker feels its cuvee has reached the required levels, the wine will be blended. It will then be given a bottling dosage which consists of sugar and special yeast; after which it is bottled. This first bottling is only temporary and no corks are used at this point. The bottles only have a basic soda-pop type of top that will just be removed at a later stage.
The bottling dosage is added to create the 2nd fermentation; this produces the additional alcohol & it adds CO2 in the bottle, which makes the champagne bubble. In this process, the sedimentation that’s produced doesn’t really end up in your final drink. This is because all the bottles are run through a specialised process called rémuage or riddling.
In this process, the bottles are placed in a downward 45° angle position on special racks. The sediment starts to settle right at the bottle’s neck. Over a period of 6-8 weeks, the bottles are shaken a little bit at regular intervals, and the angle is changed till the bottles finally become completely upside down.
At the end of this method, the bottles are opened & all the sediment is removed via a process that’s called disgorging. The winemaker then tests the champagne; formulates the shipping dosage and adds a bit of sugar and the original cuvee, after which it’s bottled in its final format.
Adding Bubbles in Tanks
Over the years, there has been a significant rise in the demand and consumption of champagne; which made winemakers look for shortcuts to making this drink. This is why they started making their champagne in large, pressurised tanks.
The sugar and yeast are all added to the wine before it is bottled. Once the winemaker decides that the champagne has reached the right stage, it’s bottled with the bubbles and all. At this point, it may either be aged a little more in the bottle, or shipped out.
In this method, a pump is used to pump-in bubbles into the Champagne at the bottling stage, somewhat in the manner that soda is made. Makers of fine champagne cringe at the mention this method and won’t touch it with a bargepole, so to speak. But it’s a time-saver and a money-saver and some producers do use this method of adding bubbles to champagne.
So the next time you sip on your Dom Perignon, Diamant Bleu cuvee or Grand Siecle and see the tiny bubbles rising to the surface, you know exactly why your champagne is bubbly. For any information about wine cellars and cellaring wine, call Signature Cellars at 02 9340 7515. Alternatively, simply use this contact form to connect with us and we will get back to you shortly.
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