So you want to learn how Champagne is made? Here’s a look at the process. It begins with blending white wine (called the ‘assembly’ in French) with yeast. The resulting mixture is placed in a thick-walled glass bottle. The bottle cap is then placed on the top, and the wine is left in a cool cellar to ferment slowly, producing alcohol and carbon dioxide. How to find the Best Champagne?
After this initial fermentation, the wine is blended with a yeast culture called a liqueur de triage. This process precipitates the second fermentation and raises the alcohol content of the final wine. In some champagnes, the wine is blended with other grapes. A wine label will indicate whether it is made from 100% white or 100% red grapes. Often, the different base wines are blended to produce a particular style of Champagne, so look for labels that indicate their composition.
Champagne is bottled and topped with liqueur de dosage, usually liquid cane sugar, depending on its style. The entire process takes time and labor. The first step is making the still wine, then blending the ingredients. The second step is the second fermentation, and the fourth step is called the Lees aging process. The fifth step is known as riddling, and the sixth step is disgorgement.
The second stage of the Champagne-making process involves a long aging period. During this time, the wine develops a toasty, yeasty characteristic. After this period, the remaining sediments are removed from the wine. Finally, the process of disgorgement, also known as riddling, occurs when the bottle is tilted from its horizontal to a vertical position. It can take weeks or even months to accomplish this.
While all sparkling wine is considered Champagne, not all of it is produced in the same way. Champagne must meet two criteria to be designated as such. It must be produced in the Champagne region in France and undergo secondary fermentation in the bottle in which it is sold. To earn the right to use the word “champagne,” a winemaker must follow the “methode champenoise” (Methode de Champagne) in producing the wine.
To make real Champagne, three grapes are used. Pinot Noir, Meunier, and Chardonnay. In addition to Pinot grapes, the champagne region also grows several other grape varieties. Pinot Meunier grapes have red skins and yellow-green flesh. Champagne made from these grapes is labeled “Blanc de Blanc.” The Pinot grape is used only in Champagne. Some producers have even labeled Champagne as “Blanc de Noirs.”
The grape must is transferred to stainless steel tanks or wooden barrels. The natural yeasts are added to the must 24 hours after grape pressing to initiate the first fermentation. Within eight to ten days, sugars are converted to alcohol. The finished product is a still, dry, and acidic white wine. This method is sometimes used for producing méthode champenoise. While these processes differ, most Champagne results from a complex fermentation process.
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