What is Méthode Champenoise?

What makes those tiny bubbles?

The oldest and most traditional way to make sparkling wine was supposedly developed by Dom (Pierre) Perignon, a Benedictine Monk in the Champagne district of France, born in1638, and is known as Méthode Champenoise.

The Méthode Champenoise process starts by making wines. Usually white wines. Wines, plural. A blend of a number of wines is used to achieve consistency year after year. The wines are assembled into a "cuvée", which just means a blend of wines. Blending is considered by most experienced winemakers to be the key to the art of méthode champenoise. The selection of the cuvée component wines is conducted with the intention of producing a definite consistent flavor and quality. Blending is a synergistic process; the result being greater than the sum of the parts. A winemaker wishing to assemble an exceptional cuveée must choose wines that are mature, yet still have the better part of their taste profile yet to come. This requires considerale insight. It is difficult to predict the results of blends that may be consumed years later.

Producing the tiny, delicate bubbles is the next order of business, and they are produced by a natural process in the best Champagnes. The "liquer de tirage"(yeast and sugar) is added to the cuvée, bottled, stoppered, and laid up "en tirage" to referment and trap the carbon dioxide gas produced by the yeast as it consumes its food-- the sugar. Bottles in Tirage
Patrice lays up bottles en tirage
Cleared Bottles in Tirage The wine is then fermented en tirage until the yeast has consumed all of the sugar and produced the coveted natural tiny CO2 bubbles. At the end of this fermentation in the bottle, the now carbonated wine will clear and leave a deposit of yeast. It is now ready for "riddling".
The A-framed racks are called "riddling racks." While the bottles are held hostage in the riddling racks, the process known as "remuage," the slow and laborious process of dropping the yeast deposit into the neck of the bottle, is performed over several weeks to several months. Bottles in Riddling Racks
Disgorging Finally, when all the yeast has dropped into the cap of the bottle, the bottles are "disgorged". This is the skillful process of turning the bottle upright while removing the cap in one motion and letting the yeast sediment fly out of the bottle while retaining the sparkling wine. At most establishments, as is commonly known, the bottles are set in a freezing brine solution to freeze the yeast sediment and form a "plug" that is then ejected. At Chateau Renaissance we disgorge "on the fly," by chilling the bottle but not freezing it.
Now that the Champagne is yeast-free, a little sugar can be added to offset the dryness of the disgorged Champagne. The amount of "dosage" determines the sweetness, or the lack of it preserves the natural dryness of the Champagne. Most Champagnes tend to be quite acidic, but even though our NATUREL is bone dry, i.e. no dosage is added, it has a mild, creamy mouthfeel as we keep the acidity lower. Our dry BRUT is very slightly sweetened, but is still drier than a so-called "Extra Dry," which is really not at all dry. DEMI-SEC is slightly sweet, and our DOUX is medium sweet and luscious. Dosage
Patrice and the dosage machine steppin' out
Corking Machine The clear Champagne must now be corked to preserve its "condition," i.e. its CO2 content. Our corking machine is an antique, and can be seen being used in the DeMay Champagne caves of Vouvray, France, on the History page.
The last step is to squash the cork into its classic mushroom shape, thus creating an extreme seal, and at the same time tie the wire cage in place to prevent any possible premature decorking from the high pressure contained in the bottle if the bottle gets too warm. Wiring machine

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