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Preparing for Wine Blogging Wednesday – Part III

20-Nov-2006
 
 

 
In this installment of Preparing for Wine Blogging Wednesday, we are going to switch away from sparkling wine regions/types for a moment and take a look at some terms and definitions that you may find useful as you make your way through the sparkling wines in your wine shop. 
 
First there are four methods of creating bubbles in wine:   

Méthode Champenoise [may-TOHD (may-TOD) shahm-peh-NWAHZ] Developed in France’s champagne region, this traditional method of making sparkling wine consists of blending various still wines to make a cuvée representative of the winery’s style. After the wines are blended, a bottling dosage (basically a syrup made from sugar and wine) and special yeasts are added, and the cuvée is immediately bottled and corked. The yeast and sugar in the dosage create a secondary fermentation in the bottle, producing additional alcohol and carbon dioxide gas, which gives the wine its effervescence. Sediment produced during the second fermentation is removed through riddling (or rémuage), a process by which the bottles are positioned downward at a 45° angle in specially built racks called pupitres. Every 3 or 4 days, a trained workman gives the bottles a shake and a slight turn, gradually increases the angle of tilt, and drops the bottle back in the rack with a slight whack. In 6 to 8 weeks, all the bottles are positioned straight downward and the sediment has collected in the neck. Although riddling was once done entirely by hand, today many wineries employ machines that dramatically shorten this lengthy procedure. (I was just at a seminar where the winemaker said the introduction of machinery what used to take about 8 months now takes a couple of weeks!)  After riddling comes disgorging (or dégorgement), whereby the sediment is removed. Just before final bottling, a "shipping dosage" (dosage d’expedition) containing sugar and some of the same cuvée (reserved for this purpose) is added-the percentage of sugar determines the degree of the wine’s sweetness. The term "méthode champenoise" can be used only on labels of wines made by this method.

Transfer Method The transfer method is similar to méthode champenoise except the riddling and disgorgement processes are replaced by conveying the wine through a pressurized filtration system and then rebottling it.  

Charmat; Charmat process [shar-MAH; shar-MAHT] A bulk method for making sparkling wines developed around 1910 by Frenchman Eugène Charmat. The Charmat process involves faster and less expensive production techniques using large pressurized tanks throughout production. These interconnecting tanks retain the pressure (created by the production of carbon dioxide during fermentation) throughout the entire process. For many winemakers, the Charmat process replaces the expensive méthode champenoise technique of secondary fermentation in bottles, thereby enabling them to produce inexpensive sparkling wines. Charmat wines can be good (although, once poured, they often lose their bubbles quickly) but are usually not as esteemed as méthode champenoise sparkling wines. It is also often used on wines such as Prosecco where the shorter fermentation time keeps the wine fresher. The Charmat process is superior, however, to the technique used by some producers of simply pumping carbon dioxide gas into still wine (as carbonated soft drinks are made). The Charmat process is also called bulk process, and in the United States, wines may be labeled "Bulk Process" or "Charmat Process" (the latter being preferred). In France, this process is also called cuve close; in Italy, it’s known as metodo charmat or sometimes autoclave (the Italian name for the sealed tanks). In Spain, it’s called granvas, and in Portugal, método continuo.

Carbonation This process forces CO2 into the wine in the same way it is added to soft drink products.  Only the cheapest wines use this method. 

Other terms you may come across: 

Espumoso [ehs-poo-MOH-soh] Spanish for "sparkling."  

Cold Duck Originating in Germany, this pink sparkling wine is supposedly a mixture of champagne, sparkling burgundy and sugar. In practice, however, cold duck is simply pink and sparkling, and the wines used are often of inferior quality. The resulting potation is quite sweet with few other distinguishable characteristics. Its origin is traced back to the Bavarian practice of mixing bottles of previously opened champagne with cold sparkling Burgundy so that the champagne wouldn’t be wasted. This mixture was called kalte ende ("cold end"); over the years, ende transliterated to ente ("duck").

Frizzante An Italian wine term for semi-sparkling wine (as opposed to Spumante, which is generally used for fully sparkling wines). Frizzante wines generally owe their bubbles to a partial second fermentation in tank, a sort of interrupted Charmat process sparkling wine. The Spanish name is Vino de Aguja, literally needle wine. The French name is Petillant and in German it is Perlwein.

Vintage Champagnes (and sparkling wines) are made from the best grapes of the harvest in years when the chef de cave of an individual Champagne house believes that the grapes are better than average. Wines from the declared year must comprise at least 80 percent of the cuvée for vintage Champagnes, with the balance coming from reserve wines from prior years. Vintage Champagnes must be aged for 3 years prior to their release.

Non-vintage Champagnes (and sparkling wines), which make up 75 to 80 percent of those produced, are blends of 2 or more years. They’re usually made in a definitive house style, which is maintained by meticulous cuvée blending.  

Rosé Champagnes (and sparkling wines) are generally made by adding a small amount of red still wine to the cuvée, although some producers extract color through maceration of the juice with red grape skins. These sparkling wines are usually full-flavored and full-bodied and have an intriguing salmon-pink color.  

The pale pink, full-flavored Blanc de Noirs Champagnes (and sparkling wines) are made entirely from red Pinot Noir and/or Meunier grapes. I have found Blanc de Noir sparkling wines, however, that also include Chardonnay.

Blanc de Blancs Champanges (and sparkling wines), which are usually more delicate and the lightest in color, are made entirely from Chardonnay grapes.

Crémant Sparkling Wines are made with only slightly more than half the pressure of standard sparkling wines and therefore have a creamier mouthfeel.     

Preparing for Wine Blogging Wednesday – Part I 

Preparing for Wine Blogging Wednesday – Part II

Preparing for Wine Blogging Wednesday – Part IV

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