Sunday, April 17, 2011

Riddle Me This!

This week's wine bus took me to the world of sparkling wines and sweet wines. Aside from the delicious samples (which I can't share via the web with you anyway), I was intrigued by the traditional way of making Champagne - Methode Champenoise, Methode Traditionnelle, Classic Method, Metodo Tradicional, Method Cap Classique, etc.

Only two pressings of the grapes is allowed before first fermentation. A still wine is produced here. After the still wine is blended with other grapes or that of another vintage, a mixture of sugar and yeast (liqueur di tirage) is added and the wine is bottled, where it will go thru second fermentation. After an appropriate amount of aging occurs, the bottles are place in racks (neck down). The Riddler (Remueur) - for six to eight weeks - goes thru and turns each bottle a bit and also slightly downward until the sediments are resting in the neck of the bottle. During degorgement, the bottle necks are then dipped into a solution that freezes them, the temporary cap is removed and the sediments fly forth from the bottle. The final state of dosage is where the wine's sweetness level occurs when a mixture of wine and sugar is added prior to final bottling.

I also learned there are six levels of sweetness, in order, from dryest: : Extra Brut (really dry), Brut (dry), Extra Dry (semidry), Sec (semisweet), Demi Sec (sweet), Doux (really sweet).
I hope all of you know that only a wine made in the Champagne region of France can use that title. Regions of France outside Champagne refer to these wines as Cremant; in Italy, Spumanti (you will also see Prosecco, but these are made mostly in the tank method); in Spain, Cava; in Germany, Sekt; elsewhere, Sparkling Wine.
The three major grape varietals used in Champagne are Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. In other regions, you may find glera (formerly known as prosecco), muscat, chenin blanc, riesling, or shiraz (those crazy Australians).

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