Champagne Production – From Harvest to Bottling
Before we look at this article which gives information and an overview of the Champagne production process, we would like to invite you to see our Champagne gifts which are produced by our 7th generation wine growers in Festigny. These gifts can be found HERE.
Production of Champagne
The production of Champagne is far from easy, and a great deal of work goes into making every single bottle of bubbly. A typical Champagne shipment will have had a good 15 months preparation go into it or so, or us to 3 years when a millésime champagne is concerned. In this article we go into detail which will give you the information you need in relation to the blending and excellence of a great bottle of Champagne.
1. Grape harvest and cultivation
When November comes along, that is the traditional time for the pre-pruning to take place once the leaves have fallen, this helps prepare the vine for the winter. During the winter months the wine will typically go into a form of hibernation, and at this point looks nothing like you would imagine the vines for Champagne production would look.
The arrival of spring heralds the beginning of the seasonal growth and this is where we see the ‘budburst’. The first thing is to remove any buds that don’t bear fruit otherwise this will be to the detriment of the end result of your great bottle of bubbly. From here the vine concentrates the sap on the main buds. when June comes along we see ‘palissage’, here the shoots are separated and they are held in place as they are stapled to the wires.
During the summer we see the end of the flowering, and this usually takes place around June time. Pollination is the next stage and this lasts up to 10 days and is a crucial part of the production of your Champagne present shipment. The next stage sees the grapes start to change colour and the sugar inside them makes them begin to swell, this stage is called “véraison” or translates as ripening.
Another important step now takes place, the growers will cut back all the foliage as this makes the vine concentrate its efforts into the fruit. This is performed around June time and takes place all the way to harvest to ensure the highest quality for your every bottle of Champagne.
Autumn is the traditional season that the grape harvest for your Champagne present shipment begins, and is known as ‘épluchage’ and will typically be done by hand. The grapes will be collected in baskets which ensures they are kept undamaged and whole. After the harvest the pruning will begin straight away, and the techniques employed have been in place due to the official regulations since 1938, which ensures your finished Champagne is to the highest standards.
2. Settling and Pressing
The grapes are recorded and weighed once they arrive at the pressing centre. Each “marc” is recorded in the relevant pressing logbook, which will also contain information relating to the grape variety and cru of your bottle of bubbly. This logbook can either be retained or sold to the Champagne house. Testing will also take place on the grapes in order to check for compliance in relation to the alcohol content for the vintage in question.
The “débourbage” process then follows where we see the settling of the juices taking place. Here the clean juices are fermented which produces wine and the flavours that you find in your bottle of Champagne start to come through.
Your Champagne bottle undergoes two fermentation phases, they involve yeast and also bacteria, and this helps the flavours develop of each top Champagne brand.
The head of the process will also blend various wines in order to get the required characteristics for your bottle of Champagne. The blending is important as this is what gives your Champagne present shipment the character it requires, each Champagne house will have it’s own way of doing this.
Once the blending is complete, cold is used to stabilise and perfect the fine Champagne. Clarification then takes places to remove any impurities to ensure your Champagne bottle is to the highest standards.
5. Second fermentation
When the bottling process is taking place, at this point the winemaker will add extra sugar or ‘liqueur de tirage’ to the Champagne present shipment. This begins the process of the second fermentation of the Champagne in the bottle and will typically last around 8 weeks.
6. Riddling and Ageing
When the Champagne bottles are full, they will typically be kept in the cellars in a constant and cool temperature for at least 15 months before they are ready to be sold.
At around 8 months into the process, the sugar is transformed into alcohol by the yeast and also carbonation. This bubbly mousse that is produced dissolves into the wine and makes the Champagne that you know today. The yeast will then die, and a deposit is formed on the walls of the bottle that the winemaker is required to remove.
A riddling rack is the next process for your Champagne, and this is also known as a pupitre. The bottles are rotated by 1/8th of a turn each time and the bottle gradually moves into a vertical position. Your Champagne present shipment undergoes this process for anything between 2 weeks up to 3 months.
7. Dosage and disgorgement
The sediment must be removed from the Champagne and this is the stage that is entitled “disgorgement.” The usual method employed is through the use of ice. The neck of the bottle is put into a solution that is -20 degrees, this causes an ice plug to form in your Champagne present shipment which results in the sediment being trapped. This is then ejected when the Champagne when the bottle is opened.
A shipping liqueur is then added to the Champagne which restores the acidity and carbonation that the wine should have. This final step is the finishing touch that your Champagne requires, before that is that the Champagne present shipment rests for around 3 months so that the liquids blends together as they should. So next time you purchase a Champagne birthday gift you will be all the wider for it!