To begin, as a point of clarification, the word “Champagne” when used on a bottle of bubbly indicates that the bottle was made in the Champagne region of France. In the United States the term “Method Champenoise” means the sparkling wine was produced using the same traditional methods.
The first thing to do for sparkling wine is to pick the grapes early. This minimizes the varietal characteristics of the wine and allows the yeast aromas to come through. Also, slightly under ripe grapes will make a lower alcohol base wine. After a normal fermentation, the base wine is bottled and has more yeast and sugar added. For Method Champenoise, this must be done on a bottle by bottle basis. (You can note on the bottle that it often says, “Fermented in this bottle”.) These bottles are crown capped and allowed to ferment. The secondary fermentation allows for the CO2 to get trapped in the wine and produces a small amount of alcohol to make up for the earlier lower alcohol level. Once the second fermentation is finished, the yeast is allowed to settle near the crown capped end of the bottle. The neck of the bottle then can be frozen, separating the yeast from the sparkling wine. When the bottle is opened the pressure sends the ice in the neck out pushing the yeast out with it. The sparkling wine then may have some sugar added back via a thick liquid syrup of the base wine and sugar, this is called the dosage. After all this, the wine is finally ready to be cored and with a cage, labeled and sold.
Come try some bubbly today at any of our tasting rooms.
-Brian Tomasello 4th Generation Outer Coastal Plain Winemaker Tomasello Winery