Astonishing and strange destiny, in the world of wine, that the one of sparkling wines! In fact, all wines sparkle: it is in the order of things that the fermentation of grape juice produces carbon dioxide and that this gas, if it persists in the wine, adorns the glass with bubbles and foam. But, poorly understood and poorly controlled for centuries, it is the incomplete fermentation and its recovery in barrels or in the bottle that has long been the random cause of a more or less appreciated effervescence…
Then one day, the bubbles became the signature of the festive wine that we drink in a flute!

The traditional method

The spontaneous and natural effervescence of certain whites from Die, of Limoux or Gaillac already had its fans in the 16th and 17th centuries, while Champagne wine, when it foamed, had mainly detractors.
It took a lot of time and experience for the art of sparkling and sparkling wines to be defined in a precise and above all regular way. Despite the precedence of various natural sparkling wines, it is champagne which embodies the historical glory of sparkling wines. It appears as the culmination and not the starting point of the art of bubbles.
It is true that the climatic characteristics of the northern location of Champagne work in favor of such wines. For a long time imitating the reds of Pinot Noir from Burgundy, but sharper, the wines from the Montagne de Reims or those from the Marne Valley were clearly disadvantaged by a colder climate, sometimes even very harsh, and their difficult fermentation, often unfinished at the onset of winter, did not resume until spring. Hence a spontaneous tendency to sparkle which had to be accommodated and which was very successful in England.
Thus, the increasing demand, nothing was neglected to perfect the culture and the wine making of Champagne throughout the 17th century.
The emblematic figure of the progress of Champagne wines remains the famous Dom Pérignon, an exact contemporary of Louis XIV. Throughout his forty-seven years of activity, the cellarer of the important Abbey of Hautvilliers has refined the selection of terroirs and the art of their blending, the quality of the harvest and the sorting of the grapes, the organization and the pressing technique, mastery of fermentation, aging and conservation.
His goal was to produce a fine and elegant wine, in accordance with his terroir: he was able not only to make the best of Champagne a great white wine, from black grape varieties but also to understand and control the sparkling process of the wine.
Through his research, he thus, opened the way to the technique of the traditional method formerly called the Champagne method.
Nowadays, alongside the red grape varieties (pinot noir and pinot meunier), the white grapes such as pinot gris and some other grape varieties that have almost disappeared are developing, with of course chardonnay, which accounts for almost all of the white vines.

Now, winegrowers are able to produce both still champagne (without effervescence) and sparkling champagne.
The foam becomes a technique, more and more precise around the beginning of the 19th century and perfected throughout the 20th century.

The principle is simple: it allows, by differentiating alcoholic fermentation and second fermentation, to overcome a spontaneous and uncontrollable effervescence to obtain a sparkling provoked and therefore controlled.
The harvest is vinified in dry, “clear” and “quiet” white wine, terroir by terroir. Then, by marrying wines from different terroirs, to which are added (except in the case of vintage vintages) “reserve” wines from previous years, the blends define the style and balance of each cuvée. At the time of “tirage” and bottling, the wine is added to a “liqueur de tirage” (mixture of wine, sugar and yeast) responsible for a second fermentation in the bottle.
About 24 g / l of sugar during fermentation causes release of gas (foaming) up to a pressure of approximately 6 atmospheres and increases the alcoholic content of approximately 1.5 °.
After prolonged aging on the lees, there remains the operation of riddling, which consists in bringing the deposit of lees to the neck of the bottle, then the “disgorgement”, which consists of uncorking the bottle, expelling the deposit and installing the final cork and its wire cap, not without having readjusted the level and possibly added a “liqueur de dosage” (mixture of wine and sugar syrup) to balance the acidity and sweetness according to the category of champagne (raw, dry, semi-dry, sweet).
This method called the “traditional method” and is used for many wines and crémant around the world (any reference to Champagne is now prohibited and the expression “Champagne method” is prohibited).
Often criticized as pale copies of champagne, they nevertheless know how to be up to the task, especially the best Spanish cavas or the best spumante from Franciacorta in Lombardy and Conegliano-Valdobbiadene in Veneto.
Discover everything about the traditional method during one our Wine Day Tour in Champagne

Natural bubbles

With its prestigious image, champagne takes the center stage. However, natural sparkling wines have not disappeared; they come from an unprovoked prize de mousse which perpetuates the old tradition before “champagnization”. They are even experiencing a resurgence of interest, in particular due to their precisely, simple and natural character and the original style of the local grape varieties they use. There is no second fermentation here, but the simple alcoholic fermentation, started in vats or cask which continues after bottling in the final bottle.

By stopping at will, this fermentation goes more or less “to the end of the sugars” and thus gives a sparkling wine less charged in carbon dioxide than the wine resulting from the traditional method and more or less rich in sugar and more or less high in alcohol. To mark the difference with the traditional method, the production of natural sparkling wines is called the “ancestral method” or “rural”.
These wines remain the prerogative of regions formerly known for their sparkling tradition such as in Limoux with its Ancestral Method Blanquette made from mauzac, Gaillac with its sparkling also made from mauzac or even cerdon and its tender rosé or half-dry of Bugey.

Moscato d’Asti is undoubtedly the most famous sparkling wine in the world: its fermentation is carried out in vats, blocked very early (by passage in the cold and filtration) to obtain a tasty balance between the lightness of the alcohol (5.5 °), the sweetness of residual sugars, the pearl of gas and the extraordinary aromatic richness of muscat.

The uncontrollable character of the ancestral methods has set back many traditions of sympathetic sparkling wines with light foam. It is also this phenomenon that made us forget the real sparkling wines of Vouvray or Montlouis or the real Italian sparkling reds of Lambrusco.

Still practiced by a few rare but remarkable winegrowers, sparkling wines nevertheless bear witness to an authentic tradition close to the natural phenomenon of transforming grape juice into wine: more than ever flagships of their appellation, today they are highly sought after by amateurs in search of “real” wines.

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