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Sparkling wine

The principle:

There are two categories of sparkling wine:

  • pétillant (sparkling): the tingling sensation on the tongue lasts longer (Vouvray pétillant, Saumur pétillant, etc.);
  • mousseux (foaming): these foam when poured into a glass (Champagne, Crémant, etc.). 

Main vinification methods:

  • The ancestral method, aka the Gaillac method, occurs naturally without either sugar or liquid d’expédition being added. The sugar from the grapes alone is to thank for the initial fermentation, for the foaming stage and for the residual sugar in the Gaillac method
  • The closed vat or Charmat method, where the foam develops in a vat under pressure and not in the bottle.
  • In the transfer method, the foam develops in the bottle and there is no disgorging. The already foaming wine is poured out of its bottle in a vat under pressure and the deposits are filtered off. A liqueur de dosage is added and the wine is immediately rebottled with its natural carbon dioxide whilst still under pressure.
  • The Die method is used for Clairette de Die in particular. This is similar to the traditional method, except that the bottles are emptied cold after the foaming stage (in the bottle, in the cellar) so that the yeast can be filtered off, as with the transfer method, but without adding the liqueur de dosage. The bottles are rinsed before being filled back up again.
  • The Champagne method is reserved for the Champagne appellation. Here are the main stages:

1 Preparing a still wine base

Pressoir traditionnel en Champagne Photo John Hodder ©Comité ChampagneTo make a white wine from mainly purple grapes, five key principles must be respected: pressing the grapes as soon as they are picked, pressing entire bunches, pressing gently and progressively, low yield, separating the juices as they exit the press.


2 Blending

Assemblage des vins de base avant mise en bouteille - Photo Visuel Impact ©Comité ChampagneThe objective of blending is to combine basic wines from different vineyards, featuring different grape varieties and made in different years, in order to design a unique wine that expresses a vision and characteristics that are specific to each grower. The grower endeavours to reproduce that same style year after year.

3 Bottling and adding sparkle

After blending the wine is bottled and a liqueur de tirage, a mix of sugar and yeast, is added ready for a second fermentation.

This phase adds the sparkle. It lasts from 6 to 8 weeks during which the yeast consumes the sugar and releases alcohol and carbon dioxide into the wine, along with esters and higher alcohols that will also contribute to the wine’s sensorial characteristics.

4 Maturing on lees

The bottles remain in the cellar for a long time to mature, shielded from light and at a constant temperature of approximately 12°C. According to the regulations, a Champagne that does not state its year of production must remain in the cellar for 15 months after being bottled; a Champagne that does state its year of production must remain in the cellar for 3 years after being bottled. In practice, most Champagne producers extend this period by a few extra years.

5 Riddling

After such a long rest the wine must be rendered limpid. This involves eliminating the deposits that formed along with the sparkle. Riddling involves tipping the bottles upside down every day to collect the sediments in the bottle neck. They can then be removed in the disgorging phase.

6 Disgorging

Disgorging consists in eliminating the deposits that riddling shook down into the bottle neck. The bottle neck is plunged into a solution at approximately -27°C. The deposits are thus captured in ice and easily evacuated.


7 Dosage and corking

Dosage involves adding a small quantity of liqueur de dosage, also called liqueur d’expédition. It is usually made from cane sugar dissolved in wine (500 to 750 g per litre).

The amount of liqueur used for dosage depends on the type of wine being made.

  • **doux: **more than 50 grammes of sugar per litre
  • demi-sec: between 32 and 50 grammes of sugar per litre
  • sec: between 17 and 32 grammes of sugar per litre
  • extra dry: between 12 and 17 grammes of sugar per litre
  • brut: less than 12 grammes of sugar per litre
  • **extra brut **: between 0 and 6 grammes of sugar per litre
  • if sugar content is below 3 grammes per litre and if no sugar has been added to the wine, the following terms may be used: "brut nature", "pas dose", **or "dosage zero"**.

Immediately after the dosage stage the bottle is fitted with a cork that is then secured with wire.

Photo Michel Guillard ©Comité Champagne



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