How is Champagne Made | Champagne Production Process

How is Champagne Made?

551

The Process of Crafting Champagne

The process of making Champagne could be thought of as making wine twice. At the heart and soul of Champagne is the process of blending. Each year the winemakers (“Chefs des Caves”) create a plethora of still wines from specific areas of land, with each wine composed of a single grape varietal.

In Champagne, we use three grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Meunier. The result is a vast selection of still wines from different areas of land, each with their own individual expressions of Terroir. For instance, some of the wines may be a Pinot Noir from the Cru of Ambonnay, a Chardonnay from Cremant, etc. In some cases, the producers (“maisons”), begin the blending process with over 800 wines! After sampling the wines, the winemakers must compose a blend that they believe will taste similar to the blend they made the previous year. Often, weather conditions could be different – making this process an incredibly daunting task that requires many years of training.

To ensure a similar profile and viability, Champagne producers are allowed to store these base wines from previous vintages, and use them in the current blend. The decision on what percentage of reserve wines to use, or how old they should be is at the discretion of the winemaker. This allows for unique yet consistent styles of Champagne amongst individual producers.

How Champagne Gets Its Bubbles

Once the final blend has been decided on, we must get the bubbles! This process is often referred to as secondary fermentation. The blend is placed into the bottle and a small amount of sugar and yeast is added, “Liqueur de Tirage”. The yeast eats the sugar, creating 1-2% more alcohol, with a bi-product of carbon dioxide.

In a stainless-steel tank or oak barrel, the carbon dioxide would evaporate into the air, but in a sealed bottle it becomes integrated into the wine, creating Champagne’s signature fizz. The yeast will inevitably die after they have consumed all the available sugar within the bottle, at which point they are referred to as “lees”.

The wine must rest on the lees for a legal minimum of 15 months, which imparts the nutty, brioche, and toasty aromas that are found in most every Champagne. The lees are slowly gathered into the neck of the bottle in a process called “riddling”, and removed in a swift instant once the top has been opened, called “disgorgement.” From there, the Champagne typically rests again for several months to over a year, settling the wines after the jarring yeast removal. Then, it heads to us in market.

Keep learning about wine!

Subscribe to Sommelier Q&A and receive notifications when new answers are published, directly to your inbox.

Alyse Mizia on Instagram
Alyse Mizia
Alyse Mizia
Champagne Specialist at Moët Hennessy
Alyse comes to her current position as Champagne Specialist representing the family of Moët Hennessy Champagnes, from as she likes to say, “the ground up”. With a BS in Viticulture and Enology from Cornell University, and a post-graduate degree in Hospitality Management, she has gotten exposure to many aspects of the wine industry, and brings a strong background in technical knowledge to the position.

Prior to becoming a Champagne Specialist, Alyse worked as a Beverage Manager & Sommelier, guiding highly successful programs in Manhattan at The Standard and Crosby Street Hotel. Alyse has also been a manager at Fairmont Hotels, helping to position food & beverage programs at The Fairmont San Francisco and the famed Champagne Bar at The Plaza, NYC. Outside of work, Alyse enjoys equestrian sports, downhill skiing, and of course Champagne, her passion. She is pursuing the Master of Wine, and has thus far achieved WSET Diploma Level.
· · · · · · · · ·
http://www.legsandlees.com

Alyse comes to her current position as Champagne Specialist representing the family of Moët Hennessy Champagnes, from as she likes to say, “the ground up”. With a BS in Viticulture and Enology from Cornell University, and a post-graduate degree in Hospitality Management, she has gotten exposure to many aspects of the wine industry, and brings a strong background in technical knowledge to the position. Prior to becoming a Champagne Specialist, Alyse worked as a Beverage Manager & Sommelier, guiding highly successful programs in Manhattan at The Standard and Crosby Street Hotel. Alyse has also been a manager at Fairmont Hotels, helping to position food & beverage programs at The Fairmont San Francisco and the famed Champagne Bar at The Plaza, NYC. Outside of work, Alyse enjoys equestrian sports, downhill skiing, and of course Champagne, her passion. She is pursuing the Master of Wine, and has thus far achieved WSET Diploma Level.


Related Articles & Comments

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *