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INSIGHTS

Century old know-how from the Champagne paired with the latest technology and ideas: that is how the brothers Szigeti produce the finest sparkling wine and Frizzante in Gols. The Szigeti cellar concept was planned and designed in France - home to the world’s best sparkling wines.

What Father Dom Perignon set out to prevent became a global success 100 years later – the tingling feeling and sparkling of champagne bubbles. Over 300 years ago, the still wine from the Champagne region was exported to England. During the journey a secondary unintentional fermentation took place because of the residual sugar. Dom Perignon was researching and working his whole life in the depths of the wine cellar to prevent this. But, with the first sips he took of the delicious sparkling champagne, he coined the legendary phrase: “Come quickly, I am drinking stars!“ – The “Méthode Champenoise” or “Méthode Traditionnelle” was born. To date it is the only true method to produce sparkling wine. A labour-intensive procedure accompanies the grape on its way from the vine into the bottle:

In fact, the quality of the sparkling wine is created in the vineyard – in the end, the grapes are the decisive factor. The harvested grapes are destemmed, i.e. separated from the stems, and then pressed quickly but gently. We take great care to use only the first two thirds of the juice for making sparkling wine as this portion hardly contains any tannins or bitter substances. The juice thus obtained is left over night to allow the turbid and solid substances to sink to the floor. These can then be easily separated from the juice. The almost clear juice is then cooled and fermented slowly. The yeast feeds off the natural sugar contained in the grapes and turns it into alcohol. The wines are then filtered after a short period of rest and prepared for bottling.

The second fermentation happens in the original bottle. For this step, sugar and yeast are added to the wine, which is then filled into champagne bottles and closed with a crown cork. Due to the fermentation in the bottle – the yeast turns sugar into ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide (which makes the wine bubbly) – the alcohol level increases by around 1.2 vol% and the pressure increases to about 6 to 7 bar. The sparkling wines are then stored on the yeast depot “sur lie” for at least nine months – sometimes even up to 10 years. During this time, the typical “champagne bouquet” is created. The yeast cells break open – a procedure called autolysis – and give the sparkling wine its special, fine yeast aroma. The longer the sparkling wine ripens and the longer it is stored, the richer will be its bouquet, and the more precious the sparkling wine.

With the bottle head at a slightly downward angle, the bottles are then riddled so that the yeast sediment loosens and collects in the bottleneck. In earlier times, the riddling was done by hand and required a lot of practice. An experienced riddler managed up to 30,000 bottles per day. Today, all this is done by machines that slowly rotate the bottles one eighth of a turn each time, bringing them from a horizontal into an upside-down position. This procedure lasts for about two days. It allows the yeast to gradually slide from the sides of the bottle into the bottleneck.

The last step in the complicated procedure of producing champagne is the “disgorging” process. The bottleneck is cooled down (min. –22°C) in a freezing solution so that the yeast sediment freezes to an icicle. It pops out when the bottle is opened, and only the clear sparkling wine remains in the bottle. A little bit of sparkling wine is always lost during the disgorging procedure. Therefore, we top up the bottles. This is the last mysterious step in the production of sparkling wine: the Dosage. A little bit of “Liqueur d’expédition” – originally a mixture of sugar and wine – is added to the sparkling wine to give it its final taste, from brut (dry) to doux (sweet). If the bottle is labelled “Non-Dosage” or “Zero Dosage” it only contains the basic wine. For the dosage, we only use selected predicate wines and natural sweet wines from our region as well as our very own “house liqueur”. After the final corking and wiring, the bottles are labelled, briefly stored and then offered for sale.

0 to 3 g/l: brut nature

0 to 6 g/l: extra brut

0 to 12 g/l: brut

12 to 17 g/l: extra dry

17 to 32 g/l: sec (dry)

32 to 50 g/l: demi-sec (medium dry)

over 50 g/l: doux (sweet)

Champagne is available in different bottle sizes. The standard size is 0.75 litres. Biblical names were given to the other bottle sizes:

3 litres Jeroboam

4.5 litres Rehoboam

6 litres Methuselah

9 litres Salmanazar

12 litres Balthazar

15 litres Nebuchadnezzar

18 litres Solomon

Producing bottles beyond the Jeroboam size takes a lot of effort and is expensive. Therefore, champagne and Austrian sparkling wine is very rare in these bottle sizes. The actual size of the bottle greatly influences both quality and taste. Normally, the same Cuvée usually tastes much softer and is more harmonious in a magnum bottle than in a 0.75 litre bottle. The bigger the bottle, the better sparkling wine ripens and develops. As the only wine maker in Austria, Szigeti fills and ferments sparkling wine in large bottles, from 1.5 litres to 15 litres, using the Méthode Traditionnelle.