Methode Champenoise &
The “Champagne Method” is the natural and traditional way to produce sparkling wines. Outside of Champagne, France; this method is typically called Methode Traditionale. The basic process involves first fermenting your base wines until they are dry like a normal wine. Once fermented, the wines are blended and put into bottles, to which has been added a small amount of yeast and an exact amount of sugar called the liqueur de tirage. The bottles are then capped, and a secondary fermentation ensues which creates a small amount of alcohol and carbon dioxide. When the secondary fermentation is complete and the wine is carbonated, the yeast in the bottle must be removed. The bottles are put into A-frame racks at an angle and put through the process of riddling or remuage where the bottles are rotated a quarter turn once a day as the yeast is slowly forced into the neck of the bottle. Once the yeast plug is formed, the wine goes through degorgement where the neck of the bottle is frozen to lock the yeast away from the wine, the cap is removed and the pressure inside the bottle forces the yeast plug out resulting in a clear wine. The bottle is then topped off with the liqueur d’expedition – a combination of wine and sugar. This dosage of sugar is what determines the sweetness of the sparkling wine. Once added, the bottle is corked and ready to age or consume.
Classic examples: Champagne, Spanish Cava, California Sparkling Wines, German Sekt.
Charmat Process or Bulk Method
To create carbonation in sparkling wines using the Charmat Process, the wine goes under the secondary fermentation not in individual bottles, rather in large, pressurized tanks. This process is more efficient, cheaper, and easier than Methode Champenoise, but the result is a wine of lower quality and less character.
Classic Examples: Italian Prosecco, Italian Asti & Moscato d’Asti, and inexpensive American Sparkling Wines
Dosage Levels & Sweetness:
Most sparkling wine producers around the world use the Champagne system of describing the sweetness level of a particular wine. From driest to sweetest, those classifications are:
Extra Brut – Extremely dry, no sugar at all
Brut – Very dry, the most common style
Extra Dry – Off-dry, very common style
Sec – Lightly sweet
Demi-Sec - Sweet
Doux – Very sweet, more than 5% R.S.
- Sekt is the name for sparkling wines from Germany. Although most Sekt is inexpensive and poorly made, high quality Sekt is produced using Methode Champenoise methods.
- High quality Sekt is produced from Riesling, Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), or Rulander (Pinot Gris) grapes.
- Fine Sekt is typically vintage dated.
Next time you’re looking for a great value sparkling wine think of German Sekt as a great alternative, to