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Sparkling Wine

The traditional of all of these wines is closely connected with that of sparkling wines. Today the designation (SPARKLING WINE) is reserved for products produced in certain French districts and in determined amounts. But the production of sparkling wines is also carried out in many other wine districts. In general, sparkling wines are those which foam readily because of the presence of high concentrations of dissolved CO2. The CO2 pressure is 4.05-5.06Pa (4-5 atm) at 20 C. However, in the United States, wines containing a pressure of slightly more than 2.03 Pa (2 atm) may be called sparkling wines. The methods of production are the following:
(1) Sparkling wine process (bottle fermentation, removal of yeast by gorging)
 Transfer process (bottle fermentation, transfer to a tank, and removal of the yeast by  filtration)

(3) Bulk fermentation

(4) Carbonation


Sparkling wine Process:-
In the classical bottle fermentation, a dry white wine (cuvé) undergoes a secondary fermentation after the addition of about 25 g per liter of sucrose fermentation takes place in thick walled, tightly closed bottles at 9-12C. The fermentation requires several months. After that the wine remains on the yeast for several months or years. During this period the yeast collects in the neck of the bottles, a process which is aided by shaking and by an increasing inclination of the bottles so that they approach a vertical position. Finally, the yeast deposit is frozen in the neck of the bottle and disgorges when the bottle is opened. The lost amount is then replaced by adding a solution of sucrose in wine. The sucrose concentration depends on the desired and product and the bottles are tightly closed after addition of the dosage.

Transfer Process.-
In this process the bottle fermentation is carried out as above, but the yeast is removed by transferring the wine from the bottles to a tank in a closed system and under nitrogen pressure. After addition of the dosage, the wine is filtered in a closed system and with nitrogen or carbon dioxide counters pressure and filled into bottles. This method permits retention of the carbon dioxide in the wine.


Bulk fermentation:-
This process is suitable for mass production of sparkling wine and results in wine of somewhat lesser quality the secondary fermentation is carried out in a pressurized vessel. A certain concentration of unfermented, residual sugar is retained in the wine so that there is no need for addition of dosages. After filtration the wine can be filled into bottles. In this process the carbon dioxide evolved during the secondary fermentation is also retained.


In contrast to the preceding process the sparkling character of wine obtained by impregnating the base wine with carbon dioxide. That means that there is no secondary fermentation. This process is suitable for the production of less expensive wines and its quality is largely determined by the quality of the base wine. Also in contrast to the preceding processes, which involve a secondary fermentation, the carbon dioxide is only weakly bound and escapes more quickly after the bottles are opened.

The choice of yeast is highly important for bottle fermentations since this fermentation is carried out under more demanding conditions. The alcohol concentration of the cuve’ (about 11% by vol.) the low temperature, and slowly increases pressure of co2 are all inhibitory for the yeast. It is also important that the yeast be fairly flocculent and forms a compact deposit. Strains of S.cerevisiae and S.bayanus are used in commercial practice.                      



- Original clarification process was discovered by Dom Perignon who used pinot noir grapes to make SPARKLING WINES

Champagne - The Region

  • Most northerly major wine producing region in France.

  • Continental climate, which means cold winters and warm summers.

  • Main grape varieties grown in this region are:

  • Chardonnay (w)

  • Pinot noir (r)

  • Pinot meunier (r)

  • Sub-soil is chalk

Production Steps of the Traditional Method


1. Primary Fermentation


    Sugar + yeast -------> -OH (alcohol) + CO2 + heat


This primary fermentation will usually yield a product which is 9% alcohol by volume.

The different grape varieties are always vinified separately.

Most of the vinifications is done in stainless steel, rarely is oak used (oak exceptions are Krug and Bollinger).

The porduct of primary fermentation is quite acidic.

Some wines undergo malolactic fermentation, some do not.


2. Blending (Assemblage)
Different percentages of varietals are combined for consistent house styles.  This can either mean that different varietals from the same (current) year are blended, or Vin Clair from other vintage years are blended in as well.


3. Secondary Fermentation (in the bottle, ALWAYS)
The product of the blending process (the cuvee) is taken, and to it is added just the precise amount of liqueur de triage.  The liqueur de tirage is a solution of sugar and yeast which will re-initiate the fermentation process.
Secondary fermentation is done to raise the alcohol percentage by 2%, to a total of about 11% alc/vol.
Secondary fermentation always takes place in the bottle according to the traditional method of Champagne.  Magnums are regarded as the perfect sized vessel for the secondary fermentation process.
The product is then crown capped (like beer), so that the CO2 gas produced by secondary fermentation does not escape.

4. Maturation
Maturation occurs on the lees (in the bottle) and is dependent upon yeast autolysis.

The minimum maturation requirements for traditional method are:
- Non-Vintage, 1 year on the lees
- Vintage, 3 years on the lees


5. Riddling (Remuage)
The repositioning of bottles from horizontal to a somewhat vertical position to assist in the removal of the sediment (lees).
Long ago, this was accomplished by using a sandwich board type device called a pupitres.  Modern gyropalettes are mechanised riddling mechanisms which take most of the hand work out of riddling.


6. Degorgement
Originally done by freezing the sediment plug in the neck of the bottle.  Inverted bottle's neck was dipped in an icy brine vat, the solids of the plug then coagulated, and could be removed in one go.
Modern method of plug removal is to use nitrous oxide (N2O).


7. Dosage (aka, the Colonel's Secret Step)
In Champagne, the product is dosed with something called liqueur d'expedition.
This stage determines the final sweetness of the wine (acidity balance by altering sweetness level).

The liqueur d'expedition is different for every producer, and is usually a fairly well guarded secret.  However, it could be something like Cognac or icewine, depending on how the producer wanted to affect the sweetness/acidity balance of the final product.

The following are sweetness levels commonly associated with qualitative labelling descriptors:
Extra Brut (not common)   -----> 0-6 gr/L residual sugar
Brut (more common)    ----->  6-15 gr/L residual sugar
Extra Dry         ----->  12-20 gr/L residual sugar
Sec            -----> 17-35 gr/L residual sugar

8. Corkage

Finally, the product is closed with a cork and hasp.



A type of wine, usually white, that is effervescent with bubbles of carbon dioxide gas which sparkle as they rise to the surface. While champagne is the best-known, sparkling wines are produced in almost every wine region in the world. They are generally at their best when made by the méthode champenoise, acquiring their sparkle through a secondary fermentation inside a sealed bottle which prevents the gas from escaping. Inferior versions may be made by carbonation, the injection of carbon dioxide gas into the wine. There are many styles of sparkling wine and these vary greatly both in sweetness and in the amount of effervescence. Sparkling wines in France are called mousseux for fully sparkling, pétillant for lightly sparkling, and perlant for very lightly sparkling. The Italian equivalents are spumante, frizzante and frizzantino. Crémant is another type of sparkling wine from France, while the predominant sparkling wine from Italy is spumante, from Germany Sekt, and from Spain cava. See also Charmat method.


From California, Spain, Italy, Germany, Australia and France

All that glitters is not gold and all that sparkles is not Champagne. Despite the American penchant for calling all wine with bubbles Champagne, the only kind of sparkling wine that has a right to call itself Champagne is stuff that comes from the region of the same name in northern France.

Does that mean the only good sparkling wine comes from the Champagne region? Not at all. Many good sparkling wines come from Italy, Spain, Germany, the United States, and other areas of France.


Several French Champagne houses have California sparkling wine operations. And they’re no weak sisters, either. In fact, many think the non-vintage California wines may be as good as or better than non-vintage French Champagnes, and certainly they are better values at $12 to $18.

As with their French counterparts, the California sparkling wine wineries are in cooler climates (Sonoma and Mendocino counties) and use the same grapes, primarily pinot noir and chardonnay with some pinot meunier. This produces a richer taste than sparkling wines made from grapes in other countries. The richest wines have the highest percentage of red pinot noir. All chardonnay sparklers, called blanc de blanc are the lightest. The 1992 Domaine Carneros Le Reve is an elegant California blanc de blanc from the house of Taittinger. Domaine Chandon's Blanc de Noir, made from pinot noir, is a consistently good full-flavored sparkling wine from Moet & Chandon. Maybe the best California sparkling wine of all is Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley NV.

But you don't have to have French parentage to make good value sparkling wine in California. Also look for Korbel, S. Anderson, Gloria Ferrer, Iron Horse, Jepson, and Scharffenberger (now owned by Moet). And beyond California, there is Washington state, particularly Domaine St. Michelle Brut from the wine juggernaut Chateau St. Michelle and Gruet Brut New Mexico NV (yes, New Mexico).


Spain is the largest consumer of sparkling wine in the world and it's hard to beat producers such as Freixenet, Codorniu, and Paul Cheneau on price, which is rarely more than $10. Spanish sparkling wine, called "cava" after the word for cellar, is made in Penedes in northeast Spain. Cavas are made in the French style, called "metodo classico," a reformation of "methode champenoise," a French term now illegal under European Community rules unless the wine comes from Champagne. "Metodo classico" means that the second fermentation—which produces the bubbles—takes place in the bottle. Traditionally, cavas were made from native grapes such as macabeo, parellada, and xarello, but more wineries are switching over to chardonnay to achieve a more universal and thus less distinctive taste. Spanish cavas are generally light, crisp and very refreshing, but not terribly interesting, though there are some exceptions such as Fleur de Nuit and SeguraViudas.



In Italy the name of the game is prosecco, a sparkling wine made from the grape of the same name in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy. The best proseccos such as Rustico by Nino Franco and Venegazzù Prosecco Brut di Valdobbiadene nv from count piero loredan gasparini don’t cost much more than $12 and are bone dry with light citrus flavors and a faint nip of bitter almond on the finish, which is typical of Italian white wines.

The key to prosecco is freshness. If you see dust on the bottles, head elsewhere. Freshness is also the key to moscato d'art, a sweet sparkler made in Piedmont in northeastern Italy that's about the same price as prosecco. Thorough chilling will mitigate some of that sweetness, but even without it, the best moscato d'Astis are never cloying. They're great with brunch, perhaps on Christmas or New Year's morning since they are quite low in alcohol. But don't overlook them as an aperitif. Producers to look for are Vietti and Rivetti.




German sparkling wines, called Sekt, are engaging alternatives to traditional Champagnes. They can be made of pinot blanc but more often are made with riesling and generally range in price from $12 to $18. Most have bracing acidity. Deinhard Lila Brut NV is a widely available example. More obscure, but worth seeking out is Schumann-Nagler Cuvee Rheingau Riesling, a Sekt trocken, meaning very dry.



One would think Australia too hot for sparkling wines. Yet Aussie winemakers do some amazing things, particularly in the case of Seaview Brut Sparkling Wine (about $10). You won't confuse this with Champagne. But this blend of pinot noir, muscadelle, chenin blanc, and semillon is a fine quaff.



Now we come full circle back to France for sparkling wines that aren't Champagne, meaning they come from everywhere but that specific place. In the Loire Valley, sparkling Vouvray is made from chenin blanc grapes, typically when the grapes are not ripe enough to make still (non sparkling) wine. Because only riesling has more acidity than chenin blanc, these wines are refreshing but with more creamy mouthfeel than the German sparklers. Foreau Brut is about $18.

The Jura and Savoie in eastern France produce a lot of lesser known sparkling wines. One of the better ones is Brut Dargent. Cremant d'Alsace is a sparkling wine from Alsace usually made of combinations of pinot noir, pinot blanc, and pinot gris. Because they are very high in acidity, they are crisp and very refreshing. Lucien Albrecht (about $15) is a good name to remember.

Regardless of where your sparkling wine comes from, it should have a clean aroma, though not a varietal character since most are blends. Citrus notes are almost always positive and the tinier the bubbles the better. They give the mouth a creamy feel rather than a foamy one created by larger bubbles. Most of all, good sparkling wines should leave the mouth refreshed and ready for another bite of food'or another sip of wine.


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