The Traditional Method of Making Champagne – An Easy To Understand Explanation

The Traditional Method of Making Champagne – An Easy To Understand Explanation

Champagne is a world-renowned sparkling wine that originates from the Champagne region of France. The production of Champagne follows a unique and time-honored process called the traditional method, or méthode champenoise. In this article, we’ll explain the traditional method of making Champagne in simple terms, highlighting the key steps and how they contribute to the wine’s distinct character.

The Traditional Method Explained

Base Wine Production: The traditional method begins with the creation of a base wine. Winemakers harvest grapes, typically Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, and then press and ferment them separately. The base wines are usually still (non-sparkling) and high in acidity.

Blending: The winemaker carefully blends the base wines to create a cuvée, which is the foundation of the Champagne. The goal is to achieve a consistent style and flavor profile that represents the house’s signature taste.

Secondary Fermentation: To initiate the second fermentation, the winemaker adds a mixture of sugar and yeast, called liqueur de tirage, to the cuvée. The wine is then bottled and sealed with a crown cap.

Aging on Lees: The bottles are stored horizontally in cool, dark cellars. During this time, the yeast consumes the added sugar and produces alcohol, carbon dioxide, and various flavor compounds. The trapped carbon dioxide creates the wine’s signature bubbles. The Champagne ages on the dead yeast cells, or lees, which contribute to the wine’s complex flavors and creamy texture.

Riddling: After aging, the bottles undergo a process called riddling. They are placed in special racks and gradually tilted and rotated to encourage the lees to settle in the neck of the bottle. This can take several weeks.

Disgorgement: Once the lees have collected in the neck, the winemaker removes them through disgorgement. The neck of the bottle is frozen, creating an ice plug that traps the lees. The crown cap is then removed, and the pressure inside the bottle forces out the plug, leaving the wine clear and free of sediment.

Dosage: The winemaker adds a mixture of sugar and reserve wine, called liqueur d’expédition, to the bottle to replace the lost volume and adjust the final sweetness level of the Champagne. The wine can range from bone-dry (brut nature) to sweet (doux).

Corking and Aging: The bottle is sealed with a cork, secured by a wire cage, and allowed to rest in the cellar for additional aging. This can range from a few months to several years, depending on the style and desired complexity.

The traditional method of making Champagne is a labor-intensive and intricate process that requires skill, patience, and artistry. By understanding the basics of this method, we can appreciate the craftsmanship and dedication that goes into each bottle of this exceptional sparkling wine.

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Written by

Bernard Marr has a deep passion for wine. He has written hundreds of articles on wine, including features for Forbes, covering wine-making and industry trends. Away from the world of wine, Bernard is a world-renown business and technology futurist. He is the award winning author of over 20 best-selling books and has a combined audience of nearly 4 million people across his social media channels and newsletters.

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