We told you how to open it, but we didn’t tell you what it is! The thing about sparkling wine, from a winemaker’s perspective, is that it’s a lot of trouble! You have to go to all the trouble of making wine, and then make it bubble. Here it is, in a nutshell.
1. So, you make the wine – usually from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier (a mutation of Pinot Noir). Blending them is common. The wine is quite tart, by tradition.
2. The wine is bottled. But, before it’s sealed, yeast and sugar are added, setting off a completely new fermentation. Since fermentation produces carbon dioxide gas and the bottle is sealed up, the wine absorbs the gas. MAJOR PRESSURE in that little bottle!
3. The better ones are aged on the dead yeast cells for months or years, which is what gives the wine that yeasty, toasty, brioche-like character – Ahhh….
4. The dead yeast is removed from the bottle, since it makes the wine hazy – this is quite a process!
5. Before the final seal, a little sweet wine is added to offset the tartness – it’s called a dosage.
The wine you buy is in the same bottle in which it fermented! Isn’t that amazing?! To be called Champagne, it should come from the Champagne region of France.
Reduced to the bare essentials, this all sounds rather dry (or should I say Brut?). But it’s a truly fascinating process!
This is called the Traditional Method. I should add that they’ve found easier, more efficient production methods for the el cheapo stuff. Read more