13 Sep How Sparkling Wine Is Produced
Who doesn’t like a glass of bubbly? Sparkling wine has distinctive characteristics, and no celebratory occasion is complete without it. Most sparkling wine labels make mention of ‘méthode traditionnelle’ or ‘traditional method’. So what exactly is this method of producing sparkling wine? It is one of the most labour-intensive, expensive, and lengthy process of producing sparkling wine.
About the Traditional Sparkling Wine Method
1. Cuvee or Base Wine
The grapes used in the production of sparkling wine are typically harvested slightly earlier than most other wines. This helps to ensure that their acidity levels are higher. The first stage of fermentation is carried out like any other wine, and all the sugars in the juice get converted to alcohol; what you get at the end of this process is dry wine.
But it’s also very acidic and tart. This liquid is then carefully blended with a variety of base wines of different vintages and different vineyards to create a Cuvee (in French). This is the final blend from which sparkling wine is made.
2. Liqueur de tirage
A syrupy mixture of some sugar and yeast and are combined with the Cuvée. This is referred to as the liqueur de tirage. As the yeast in the mix feeds off the sugar, it produces the second fermentation. After this process is complete, the wine is carefully bottled, and temporary plugs or crown caps are used to secure it.
3. The Second Fermentation Stage
Once the wine is placed in the cellar, it’s ready for the second fermentation. But since all the bottles are already sealed, the carbon dioxide produced in the process is unable to escape; ultimately, it carbonates the wine. The yeast produces about 1.3 percent more alcohol before dying inside the bottle. This residue is called lees.
4. The Aging Process
In this stage, the wine ages on the dead yeast/lees, and the process gives the wine its texture. The duration for which the wine is aged depends on the variety of wine being produced. For example, vintage champagne would need to be aged for 36 months, while NV champagne needs at least 15 months. Cava is generally fermented for a minimum of 9 months. Most winemakers believe that a wines texture depends on the amount of time it has aged on the lees.
5. Riddling the Yeast
Even after the wine has aged properly, it still contains lees, and this needs to be removed. It’s why the bottles are put through a process called riddling. The bottles are shifted into an upside-down position on pupitres (special racks). The residue slowly begins to collect at the bottle’s neck.
6. Disgorging the Sparkling Wine
The bottlenecks are then dipped into a freezing liquid. It freezes a small amount of liquid in the neck of the bottle (which also contains the lees). The crown caps on the bottles are removed for just a few seconds, and the frozen liquid pops out.
7. The Right Dosage
Since some of the wine and the unwanted lees is now out of the bottle, they are filled with a small amount of sugar and wine. The former helps to balance out the tartness in the wine. This blend is referred to as exposition liqueur or liqueur d’expédition.
The final step is corking & labelling the bottles, and the sparkling wine is ready to be sent out to market. To find out about how Signature Cellars can help you design and build a wine storage solution that can help protect your investment and add value to your home, call us on 1300 570 636 or email email@example.com.
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