How Is Champagne Made?
The Méthode Champenoise or the Classical Champagne Method is imitated worldwide, but you can only make the finest bubbly wine in the cold French region of Champagne. Here’s all you wanted to know about Champagne production. Are you ready to learn how Champagne is made?
It all starts in the vineyards
You can’t make great wine without great grapes, and for sparkling wine production, you need grapes with concentrated flavors and piercing acidity. These you’ll only find in the chilliest wine regions on the planet, and Champagne, being close to the 50°N Latitude imaginary line, is just ideal.
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier are the grapes of choice in Champagne. A white and two reds (vinified as white wines) to mix and match and achieve a consistent style — Champagne’s secret is blending.
Champagne houses will blend wines made from different grapes and coming from different vineyards and harvested in different vintages. With such a color palette, the sky’s the limit for winemakers. Some Champagne bottles are a combination of over 100 distinct wines.
Fermentation, yeast doing all the work
Once producers pick the grapes, they press them and separate the juice from grape solids. They then ferment the juice as if making still white wine. This is the first fermentation in which yeast eats up all the sugar and turns it into alcohol.
What about the bubbles? To make sparkling wine Champagne-style, producers must then bottle the wine, not without adding a pinch of extra yeast and sugar before sealing it.
The trapped yeast does its work producing a bit more alcohol but also lots of carbonic gas. Enormous pressure accumulates inside these bottles as the liquid absorbs all this gas to release it as fine bubble streams later in your glass.
Adding bubbles to Champagne is hard enough already, but the process isn’t over yet. As the yeast dies out inside the bottle, there’s a need to remove it to be able to sell clean, crystal clear wines. That’s why the producer lays down the bottles for years, even decades, to allow a proper maturation and to gather the dead yeast cells in the mouth of the bottle.
The upside-down bottles are finally dipped in an extremely cold liquid, the dead yeast cells freeze, and a machine briskly removes the sediments. This is the right time to add the final sweetness to Champagne; as you know, the prestigious style can be bottled bone dry or attractively sweet.
The most complex wine on the planet
As you see, making Champagne is no easy feat. And every step of the way requires the involvement of specialized and patient people. All this adds up to a Champagne bottle’s final price.
Champagne is expensive, yes, but it’s also one of the most exclusive and complex wines on the planet. If Champagne houses go to so much trouble making this fizzy wine, the best we can do is learn all about how they make it. Now you’ll enjoy Champagne more than ever!
If you’ve ever gone wine tasting and heard all these different wine terms, words and phrases, but had no idea what any of it meant, don’t worry about it,