Sparkling wines are synonymous with celebration, but they can also be full of complex flavors that make them exceedingly food-friendly. Here’s a closer look at what it takes to get a bottle of bubbly on your table.
How sparkling wine gets its bubbles
There are several different methods for creating bubbles in sparkling wine. Winemakers chose a method based on their budget, location, and desired flavors.
The méthode champenoise, also known as the traditional method, is the classic way of producing sparkling wine in Champagne, France. The key element of this method is that the wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle. The fermentation produces carbon dioxide, which is trapped in the bottle and absorbed by the wine. This creates a fine, delicate carbonation.
In the charmat method, which is commonly used to create Prosecco, the secondary fermentation occurs in a steel fermenting tank. Compared to the traditional method, the charmant method is simpler and less expensive.
This is the oldest method of creating sparkling wine. In this process, the wine is bottled before the initial fermentation is complete. The fermentation finishes in the bottle, creating light carbonation. This method is inexpensive, but can be difficult to control. Today, it is commonly used to create wines labeled pétillant naturel, sometimes referred to as “pét-nats.”
In the carbonation method, a still wine is created from start to finish and then carbonated in a pressurized tank. No secondary fermentation occurs. This method is generally only used in lower-quality, bulk-produced wines.
How méthode champenoise wine is made
Grapes are harvested and fermented into a still, dry wine. This base wine is known as a cuvée.
The cuvée is bottled with the addition of a tirage, a liquid solution of sugar and yeast. The tirage kick starts the second fermentation.
As the additional yeast cells consume the remaining sugar, they give off carbon dioxide, which creates gas and pressure. Because the bottle is sealed, the wine is forced to absorb the gas, creating carbonation. At this stage, the dead yeast cells remain in the bottle, and are known as the lees. The lees impart delicate, toasty flavors into the wine.
As the added yeast cells consume the remaining sugar, they give off carbon dioxide. The sealed bottle traps the gas, and the wine is forced to absorb it, creating carbonation. The yeast cells that remain in the bottle are known as the lees. The lees impart delicate, toasty flavors into the wine.
During riddling, bottles are stored upside down in a slanted rack and rotated. This allows the yeast cells to settle in the neck of the bottle.
To remove the spent yeast cells, the neck of the bottle is quickly frozen. The wine is opened, and the dead cells are forced out by the pressure in the bottle.
After the yeast cells are removed, a dosage may be added. A dosage is a mixture of wine and sugar, which is added to round out the flavors of the wine. The amount of dosage determines the sweetness of the finished wine. Brut and extra brut wines receive little to no dosage.
After the yeast cells are removed, a dosage may be added to round out the flavors of the wine. A dosage is a mixture of wine and sugar. The amount added determines the sweetness of the finished wine.
Cork & cage
After the wine is finished, it’s closed with a cork. The carbonation creates pressure in the bottle, so a metal cage to keep the cork in place. Each cage is closed with a loop that requires precisely six twists to open.
The finished wine closed with a cork. Carbonation creates pressure in the bottle, so a metal cage is used to keep the cork in place. Each cage is closed with a loop that requires six twists to open.
Our new sparkling bottles
The Blue Barrel Brut, Blue Barrel Brut Reserve, and Blue Barrel Brut Rosé are made using méthode champenoise, the most complex and respected method for producing sparkling wine. Our sparkling wines are full of bright acidity and beautiful aromatic fruit that make them easy to enjoy with almost any meal. It’s always a good idea to keep a bottle handy.
Learn more about how to pair these wines here.