Wine, the natural product of grapes, begins in the vineyard.
There, the grower plants grape varieties which over the years have proven best for his
particular soil and climate. The vines start their yearly cycle in April,
flower about six weeks later and go on to produce grapes that ripen by fall.
Grapes are ready for harvest when they develop the proper balance of sugar
and acidity. After they are picked, the grapes are put into vats to begin
fermentation, the process that changes grape juice into wine. In the
fermentation process, yeast, which forms naturally on the grape, converts the
natural sugar of the juice into alcohol and into carbon dioxide that escapes.
Red wine is made by fermenting the juice with their skins. The skins
contain pigment and tannin, and it is these qualities that give red wine its
color and long life. Rose is made by fermenting the juice of red grapes with
their skins for a short time only. To make white wine, the grapes are pressed
and the juice is fermented without the skins. When fermentation is
controlled, it will stop automatically after all the sugar has been converted
to alcohol. If the juice has a high sugar content, fermentation will stop
when the alcoholic content of the wine reaches 14%. When this occurs, the
remaining, or residual, sugar will create a wine that is naturally sweet.
After fermentation, the new wine is drawn off the vats and put either into
wooden barrels or into stainless steel tanks for aging and then bottling.
How Champagne is Made
After the blending and fermentation of the still wine from the Champagne
region (see how wine is made) is completed, it is bottled with a very small
amount of sugar and yeast dissolved in wine and called the liqueur detirage.
This solution is responsible for starting the next major step in Champagne
making - the second fermentation. This time, the fermentation will happen in
the corked bottle where there will be no way for the resulting carbon dioxide
to escape. The bottled wine is stored in the cellars for at least one year
when the wine has undergone its second fermentation. The bubbles are in the
bottle, but so is the sediment which the fermentation has deposited. To
remove it, the bottle is placed in a riddling rack, with the neck slightly
downward. Workmen twist the bottle and tilt it farther down every day to
force the sediment into the neck, next to the cork. When that has been done,
the wine is ready for degorgement. In the process, the neck of the bottle is
quickly frozen so the sediment is sealed in a plug of ice. When the cork is
removed, the gas insides pushes out this plug. A small amount of cane sugar
is added to give the wine its required degree of sweetness. The final
mushroom shaped cork and wire to hold it in place is applied, and the
Champagne is ready for sale.
|Material excerpted from the Wines of Champagne. For further information see the Champagnes France website.|