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.
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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
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.
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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.