Bubble wines: Top 4 vinifications

20/12/2021 | Uncategorised

This month we decided to teach you more about bubble vins … Yes, because we all know Champagne, Crémant… But do you know the different ways to make bubble wines? 

Come on, keep reading us, we explain everything to you!

Happy reading:)

Our bubble wines, there are several types, with different names, colors and winemaking methods…
1 – The traditional Champagne method
2- The closed tank method
3 – The ancestral method
4 – The gasification method

1 – The traditional method (also called Champenoise):

This method of vinification of bubble wines is the most common. Here are the different steps:

– First step, as during the vinification of a white wine: we carry out the pressing and the first fermentation (which can be done in stainless steel or barrel vats depending on the type of aromas we want to obtain)
– We then move on to the blend (of grape varieties, different years, barrels, … Always depending on the type of sparkling wine you want to obtain, its aromas).
– This is when the bottling arrives with the addition of draft liqueur (composed of sugars and yeasts). The bottle is bottled with a capsule.
– So begins a second fermentation in the bottle. The carbon dioxide is enclosed by the capsule, so it dissolves in wine that becomes sparkling.
– The ageing stage: on lees, since dead yeasts will remain in the bottle. Then little by little the winemaker makes a stirring (progressive inclination of the bottle) to lower the lees towards the neck.

And then, what do we do?

– Comes the stage of disgorging : the goal is to remove the lees. Traditionally “on the fly” with a key to disgorge, it is the action of removing the capsule and under pressure the lees are expelled. Another method used nowadays (more industrial): we freeze the top of the bottle to block the lees. The latter becomes an ice cube that is ejected when the capsule is opened (the lees are also ejected by this action).
– Finally, the dosage: we add a little wine from the same batch or a dosage liqueur (composed of wine and sugar). Depending on this liqueur, we will obtain different dosages of bubble wines, which we explain to you just below!
– We plug the bottle with cork, a capsule and a muzzle that allows to hold it well.

Depending on the time of breeding on lees and the region, we can claim a Crémant, a Champagne …
We obtain wines with complex aromas of bread, brioche, biscuit …

Gentleness scale depending on the dosage:

Plain crude : zero to 3g/L of maximum
sugar- Extra raw : up to 6g/L
Raw : up to 12g/L
Extra-dry : from 12 to 17g/L
Dry : from 17 to 32 g/L
Semi-dry : from 32 to 50g/L

A little anecdote:

In the past, the long collar found on sparkling wines was used to hide the level of the bottle. Indeed, when the disgorging stage was carried out on the fly, part of the wine was lost at the same time as the lees. So the levels were not always equal… With the long collar, it was neither seen nor known! And that’s it! Don’t be afraid, that’s no longer the case today!

2 – The closed tank method (also called Charmat):

We always start on the same principle at the beginning: pressing and 1st fermentation in vats. Then, we add in the tank the draft liqueur which activates the 2nd fermentation. The carbon dioxide is trapped in the tank and dissolves in the wine: sparkling wine is obtained. Then comes the stage of filtration and bottling.

Here we get fresh and fruity wines like Italian Prosecco

3 – The ancestral method:

This is the oldest method, hence its name.
The grapes are still pressed and partial fermentation is carried out in vats.
This fermentation is stopped by the cold and then the wine is bottled without any addition.The fermentation will resume spontaneously in the bottle, which will reveal a foaming.

We then obtain a sparkling wine with variable aspects (such as Clairette-de-Die, Gaillac …)

4 – Gasification:

This is the most economical but the least qualitative method. The European Union also prohibits this process.
How does it work? Quite simply, CO2 is added to the base wine, resulting in a sparkling wine.

We then obtain a wine with aggressive bubbles.

Moreover, there are different levels of pressure in bubble wines that are categorized into 3 main families:

– Sparkling wines (Crémant, Champagne…), whose pressure is between 3 and 5 atmospheres. The atmosphere is CO2 in bars. 1 bar costs 1000mg/L. 
– Sparkling wines (Montlouis, Vouvray…), which have a pressure of less than 2.5 atmospheres.
– Pearl wines (Picpoul de Pinet, Muscadet sur lie), which are still wines whose pressure is less than 1 atmosphere. If the pressure is less than 850mg/L then we are no longer talking about pearls but still wines.

Ideas for bubble food and wine pairings:

On white bubbles (Champagne, Crémants, Clairette-de-Die, Prosecco…)
– As an aperitif, as an accompaniment to iodine flavors, on smoky notes (salmon), pan-fried foie gras, white meats, cheeses and for dessert (ice creams, creams, creamy dessert …).

On pink bubbles (Champagne rosé, Crémant rosé…)
You can add a red fruit inside (strawberry, raspberry …).
It will be tuned according to the colors and aromas of the wine: salmon tartare, a dessert around lychees, strawberry soup or red fruit ice cream…

On red bubbles (Lambrusco…)
– More difficult to grant, you can enjoy it for dessert with dark chocolate, red fruits (strawberry).

See you soon for new news!

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Interview Gilles de REVEL, Dean of the Faculty of Oenology of Bordeaux

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