How Do They Make Champagne?
Before we look at how Champagne is made, if you would like to see the Champagne products made by my family in Festigny, you can do so HERE.
Tuns, barrels and casks, all of these are essential components that Champagne houses need in order to make the fine Champagne that makes up ya bottle of wine.
The vineyards around Reims have attracted the necessary crafts that were required in order to construct the vessels to hold the wines, and in turn provide the foundations for bottle of bubbly. It all started with a basic form of Champagne with the potters who made amphora and wine jars.
After this came the barrel makers, and who can deny the importance of these when it came to the evolution of Champagne? If we go back as far as the 12th Century, but we saw Guillaume aux Blanches Mains who was the one behind the introduction of the cask makers, and also the carpenters.
Champagne Production History
These settled in the Couture quarter with various other trades and thus the foundations of the production of Champagne as we know it today were laid. It was in 1373 that the coopers of Reims were given articles and in turn their relevant importance grew. By 1750 there existed a total of over 150 coopers in the city of Reims, and with this level of coverage the Champagne making process was always going to inevitable.
Every Champagne house has its own characteristics and distinctive features that make up its fine Champagne:
- The fermentation much may much longer of their luxury Champagne as the wines remains in the barrels for a longer period.
- The fine Champagne may begin the first fermentation in a tank where the temperature is controlled, often they decide that only wood can be used in the ageing process in the casks. These decisions will add distinctive flavours to the Champagne types..
- The luxury Champagne may be stored in oak or wooden barrels for a small portion of the production process.
- Another Champagne house may decide that the wine should avoid all contact with wood in its entirety. Others will limit the micro-oxygenation that takes place to as being the air that reaches the wine via the cork, and often this will be the only way it happens which will add another distinctive characteristic to the bottle of bubbly.
Champagne House History
It was during this period that we saw the establishment of many of the Champagne Houses, with many appearing over the coming century with much experimentation taking place in order to perfect the making of their fine Champagnes. Many craftsmen found employment as a barrel maker or cellar workers, earning their living working on luxury Champagne by making Champagne barrels or producing casks that belonged to the top Champagne brands.
Champagne Production Tools
Some Champagne Houses owned chestnut and oak forests, from where they had an excellent source of wood for the barrels that made the foundations of the Champagne. Experience told them that the more seasoned the cask was, that the aging process would result is less likely risk of losing wine for the luxury Champagne.
The top Champagne brands soon found out though that fine Champagne production by its nature, isn’t the easiest process. The second fermentation that takes place in the bottle of the luxury Champagne will only reveal the character of the wine if the first fermentation was conducted in a flawless manner, as you can imagine the top Champagne Houses had much trial and error in the production of Champagne.
Fine Champagne Production
1830 saw the establishment of an association of ‘Cavistes’ (or cellar workers) and the coppers for the production of the fine Champagne. 3000 members were still part of this association as late as 1930. Then we witnessed the emergence of a brand new industry in the fine Champagne field, the Champagne Houses required specialist barrel-makers and coopers.
They felt pressure of course from those who made the wine tankers, but each industry will feel such pressures and luxury Champagne is no different. The barrel makers called Kessler, closed their business down in 1953, a sad day for those involved in the production of Champagne.
Champagne Tools of the Trade
Coopers were known for having a keen eye for detail. They would instantly know the difference between a factory made barrel and an Argonne oak barrel. They would be able to identify the barrel of a particular Champagne House by the wood used for the barrel, or indeed the way the staves curved. By touching the cask they would recognise the sensation of a ‘boujus’, or a joint that required attention.
They would be able to discuss their tools for hours, these people were real craftsmen and a great deal of skill went into making the barrels that helped make the Champagne,
The 1960’s saw the Champagne Houses slowly reduce their reliance on wood, often the luxury Champagne would be stored in casks, as sometimes the fine Champagne would not be suited to being stored in a wooden barrel.
Champagne Production Tools
Wood barrels and casks help the fine Champagne production process.
When a new cask was bought (usually from the Poitou-Charentes region), before the production of the fine Champagne could begin, the process started of with ‘seasoning,’ here any unwanted tannins were removed from the casks so the luxury Champagne production process could begin in earnest. After this point, the casks were rinsed thoroughly before any fine Champagne was put in them. Servicing of the casks may be required, especially for the older casks and this prevented any leaking or spoiling of the fine Champagne.
The barrel also had wooden bands on which would need to be retightened from time to time, this would improve the longevity of the cask, and if carefully serviced some could last as long as 50 years. You can see that a great deal of work goes into the servicing of the equipment from the Champagne houses that makes up your great bottle of bubbly.
These barrels could hold up to 205 litres of fine Champagne, so quite a sizeable object so it was worth the time to service it and ensure the best end result for each batch of Champagne. Each of the top Champagne brands would work on their equipment in this way to make the production of their fine Champagne as efficient as possible.
During the first fermentation, the Champagne House coppers would keep a close eye on the fine Champagne and see how it matures, and also how it settles. Ullage would then occur and aeration would be a necessary process for all the top Champagne brands. They would then draw off the wine, leaving to one side any impurities that they found. The fine Champagne would be emptied from the cask, which would then be cleaned and refilled.
Then, it was the stage of blending, special barrels would be used in this stage with certain reserve wines stored in special casks. This would largely be directed by the cellar master for the top Champagne brands. Here it would remain in a cask until ‘tirage’ occurred, after the development would continue in the Champagne bottle..
Luxury Champagne Production
The work that made up the luxury Champagne production was meticulous and delicate. Such a fine Champagne would please even the most demanding palate. So there we have it, just Champagne and only Champagne has these elaborate techniques for producing the fine Champagne that we know, so now when you buy your next personalised Champagne bottle, you will know just how much work has gone into it.
This is why Champagne can be an expensive Champagne and rarely a cheap Champagne, because the work involved is very high, unlike a Prosecco bottle or a Cava bottle. Call us now if you want a Champagne gift box and we will send Champagne by post to whatever destination to choose.