Demystifying French Champagne
Have you ever wondered how French Champagne gets its bubbles? Or what people mean when they say "this is made in the Champagne method"? If these are questions you have asked then you are in the right place! Let us demystify how French Champagne is made and unravel all the winemaking lingo for you.
Méthode Champenoise, also known as the traditional method or Champagne method is where the secondary fermentation happens in the same bottle in which the wine is later sold. Examples of méthode Champenoise wine are Champagne, Cava, Crémant and Franciacorta.
This method of sparkling wine production is the most appreciated method for producing high-quality sparkling wine and is used exclusively in the making of French Champagne.
1) Grapes arrive into the winery and are usually fermented separately into a dry wine. The winemaker keeps the ferment separately to have the ability to blend the final wine into a 'cuvée' - the final blend for sparkling wine.
2) Tirage (tee-raazh): Sugar and yeast are added to the cuvée. The cuvée is then bottled under crown seal in preparation for secondary fermentation.
3) Secondary fermentation commences inside the bottle, producing around 1.3% more alcohol and also creating CO2. The CO2 is trapped inside the bottle, carbonating the wine!
4) The sparkling wine is then aged on its lees (yeast that has died and remains in bottle) to develop additional flavour and texture in the sparkling wine. The time that a wine must spend aging on lees is different for the type of sparkling wine and where it is from - Champagne must age for a minimum of 15 months!
5) Riddling or Remuage in French is the process of clarifying the wine and removing the lees. The bottle is upside down and turned ever so slowly so the lees slowly collect the neck of the bottle.
6) Disgorging: The process of removing the sediment and lees from the bottle! The bottles are carefully placed upside down into a freezing liquid solution which causes the neck of the bottle (where are the lees are after riddling) to freeze. The bottle is then placed right-way up and the crown seal is released which allows for the frozen lees to shoot out of the bottle, clarifying the wine.
7) Dosage: Lastly, a mixture of wine and sugar (Liqueur d'Expedition) is added to fill bottles. The bottle is then corked, wired and labelled in preparation for sale!
There are a range of different styles of French Champagne and sweetness levels.
7) Doux: 50+ g/L of sugar
Most common styles of French Champagne:
- Non-Vintage or NV: This wine is a blend from multiple vintages and usually follows a 'house style'. Blending different wines from multiple vintages smoothens out vintage variation, creating a wine with the same flavour profile every year.
- Vintage: This wine by law, is 100% from the year that is indicated on the bottle. These wines tend to be produced in only the best vintages, capturing the essence of the vintage in the bottle.
- Rosé: Champagne Rosé is usually made by blending red wine with white. These wines offer differing flavour profiles to Vintage and Non-Vintage wines.
- Blanc de Blancs: A Champagne that is made entirely from white grapes. These wines tend to be leaner in body however displays flavours of citrus, stone fruits and salinity.
- Blanc de Noir: A Champagne that is made entirely from red grapes. These wines are fuller bodied and display flavours of red fruits, yellow fruits and flora notes.
We are lucky enough here at Molto to be able to source some of these French Champagnes. To browse our range please follow the link below