Champagne: How It’s Made

The New Year is just around the corner, so we at Homewetbar thought it would be great to spend a bit of time on how everyone’s go-to New Years drink is made. Cheers!

Hand-harvested grape bunches arrive to the press and are immediately pressed. Since it is a white wine method made with mostly black grapes, pressing is a delicate operation. Colouring substances contained in the skins must not “stain” the juice. Quality first dictates a maximum pressing yield of 100 litres of juice per 160 kg harvested. The grape juices are then put in vats for a first fermentation. The wines obtained will form the “cuvée”. The cuvée is the result of still wine blending of different growths, varieties and harvest years. This is the reason why most Champagnes are non vintage.

Each blend is jealously kept: composition and proportions are secret. It is why understandably, each Champagne is unique in personality and character. When a cuvée is ready, a “liqueur de tirage” made of cane sugar and yeast is added. The wine is then bottled and capped, and rested on their sides on wooden slats in the cool chalky cellars. It will rest there at least twelve months. A second fermentation occurs in the bottles: the transformation of sugar by the yeast provokes overpressure by liberating carbon dioxide. Once this “prise de mousse” is done, a yeast deposit forms in the bottle. To eliminate it, bottles are placed on “pupitres”, a sort of easel with rows of holes to hold a bottle neck down. Turning and riddling will bring this sediment towards the neck: this is called “remuage”. Bottles stored on the neck “sur pointe” are then ready for disgorgement. The bottleneck is immersed in freezing brine. Prying off the cork will let the frozen sediment shoot out under the pressure of effervescent wine: this is called “dégorgement”. Before re-corking the bottle (with natural cork), a dosage is blended out of Champagne wine and sugar in varying proportion. According to sugar content of this dosage, the Champagne will be brut, extra-dry, dry, semi-sweet or sweet. It is not necessary to age Champagne because it is marketed at a perfect stage of maturity.