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Champagne - NewYear 2014

The secrets behind making Champagne.

 

Champagne is produced exclusively in the Champagne region of northern France. Even though many countries have production of sparkling wine, a number of them, and also the European Union, have restrictions on the use of the Champagne denomination.

 

The traditional method of producing Champagne is known as the méthode champenoise, named after the region. The main difference in this method compared to other methods is in that it produces the bubbles of the wine through a second fermentation.

 

The first step of champagne production is the harvest, which takes place rather early. This means the grapes are less sweet and more acidic. The grapes are pressed shortly after being harvested to ensure a base wine that is as white as possible. The first fermentation takes place, as with any wine, and this produces the base wine itself, which is still very acidic. Several base wines are combined to from a blend, known as the cuvée.

 

The cuvée is then tapped onto bottles together with a small amount of sugar and yeast to start the second fermentation. In this process more alcohol and carbondioxide (which this time is not allowed to escape the bottle) is produced. The champagne has to be aged in this second fermentation for a minimum of 15 months, or even 3 years if it is to become a vintage champagne in which all the base wines are from a single year of extraordinary harvests.

 

The next step of the process is riddling, where all the sediments are gathered in the neck of the bottle. Historically this has been done manually using special riddling racks over the course of 6 to 8 weeks, but nowadays many producers use mechanised equipment.

 

The disgorging, where the cork and the sediments are removed is a critical part of the process because of the risk of carbon dioxide and wine escaping the bottle. In modern champagne production the sediments are removed by freezing the top of the bottle and then removing the ice plug that forms inside.

 

Before the bottles are corked, the level of liquid is topped up with a mixture of base wine and sucrose. This is done mainly to balance the high acidity of the champagne but also to adjust the sweetness of the flavour.

 

Some of the most famous champagne houses are Bollinger, Dom Perignon, Veuve Clicquot, Moët & Chandon, Louis Roederer and Mumm. The oldest of these manufacturers, Moët & Chandon, was established in 1743. Even though all of the brands are known globally as exclusive and luxurious some of them reach an annual production of more than 20 million bottles.

 

 

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