What is Champagne Disgorgement?

what-is-champagne-disgorgement

Disgorgement is the process of eliminating the sediment from Champagne and sparkling wine before it is corked and ready for sale. The disgorgement date has nothing to do with the age of the sparkling wine or when it was put on sale.

The French term is degorgementThis is an important step in producing sparkling wines that probably has its origins in the Champagne district in France. The wine is fermented a second time for at least 15 months to three years, depending on the winemakers. The dead yeast cells resulting from the fermentation are called lees in English. The process is called aging sur lies in French.

The neck of the wine bottle is racked at an angle so that the sediments, including the dead yeast cells, collect in that part of the bottle as the wine ages. The bottles are racked with a freezing brine around the neck that makes sediment removal very easy. The bubbles help push the lees out of the neck and the dosage is added before it is securely corked and ready for sale. The disgorgement is one of the final steps in the process of making Champagne and other sparkling wines.

Dosage

This refers to the amount of sugar added to the wine before it is sold. Yes, sugar is added to French Champagne and other sparkling wines to give them more flavor and balance the acidity. The Extra Brut or dry sparkling wine has less than 6 grams of sugar per liter (g/l). The Brut, that has 6 to 15 g/l of residual sugar, is still very dry.

Wines with Sec designations usually have 16 g/l or more of sugar. An Extra Sec has up to 20 g/l of sugar. This makes the wine tastier to people who want a sparkling wine with a degree of sweetness. Demi-sec can have up to 50 g/l and Doux is the sweetest wine with more than 51 g/l of sugar. These are usually considered sparkling wines served with dessert.

Cuvee

This is the finished batch of sparkling wine. Champagne and other bubbly wines will not always be disgorged at the same time. A batch or cuvee with one date may taste different from bottles disgorged and prepared for sale at a later date. This system is now used for sparkling wines made in the United States and other countries.

If you are a knowledgeable wine consumer, you will be aware of the differences in the dates. Many people are not aware that the disgorgement date only tells you when the Champagne is prepared for sale. This makes the system open to controversy in the U.S. The good news is that more people who enjoy sparkling wines are now learning about this process so the date is important.

Wine experts advise consumers to buy what they like but to be aware that not all sparkling wines from one vineyard or winemaker will taste the same. Read the labels and experiment to find the sparkling wines you like.

Grape Vine Maturity

grape-vine-maturity

Grapevine cuttings or shoots are usually planted in the spring and take three years to produce grapes that can be used for wine. Climate and soil conditions play an important role in vine growth and grape production.

Nurturing

The young vines must be pampered to grow into mature producers of quality grapes. They need sunlight, irrigated but well drained soil and pruning. The small shoot planted in the spring will grow into a vine with stalks and delicate side canes that should be trained along a trellis.

Wine producing vines are nurtured with smaller trellises and fences that give them room to spread during their second season. The trellis or fence can be metal, wood, rope or any type of line. The vines will wrap themselves around the thin links or slats of the trellis. You can train table grape vines to cover a decorative gazebo or arched structure over three years.

The vine has to be pruned to permit new growth. The stem or trunk grows the first year while new growth appears in the second year. Only four canes or stalks should be allowed to grow from each cutting the first year. Their vines should be trained along the trellis the second year. If you are growing grape vines, you will have to prune about 70% of the vine the first two years.

The vines should begin to sprout leaves and buds that grow into grapes by the third year. Any grapes that appear during the second season are not considered wine quality.

Climate and soil

Different varieties of grapes grow in different climates and soil conditions. All grapes require sunlight during the growing season and soil that is well drained. Rain helps to irrigate the plants but there must be sufficient runoff.

Weather is important in growing vines and determining the quality of wine grapes. Most grapes need cool, moist temperatures. Some grape varieties such as the Pinot Meunier used in champagne like colder weather and bud a little later in the spring. The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes traditionally used in champagne blends or cuvees need a slightly warmer environment and chalky limestone soil.

Most grapes are harvested in the fall from late August to early October in the Northern Hemisphere. The sugar level is tested and the grapes picked and processed when they are in their prime, before the first frost.  Some species of grapes in Canada are harvested after the first frost to produce the famous Ice Wine.

Grapes in the Southern Hemisphere are harvested during March. Grapes are grown as far south as Chile and Argentina in the Western Hemisphere. South Africa and Australia are also know for outstanding wine production.

Vines that are well tended and pampered can last for 40 years as long as they are not infested with diseases and rot. Healthy mature vines can produce cuttings and shoots for new planting. Grapes were probably the first fruit cultivated by ancient people and wine is one of the world’s oldest beverages.

How to Buy Budget Friendly Champagne

how-to-buy-budget-friendly-champagne

Your son’s or daughter’s graduation or an expected promotion: both reasons to crack out the the Dom Perignon and celebrate in style.

Sometimes, though, you need a budget-friendly bottle of bubbly or quality sparkling wine to keep the fridge well-stocked on New Year’s Day. With that in mind, here are some tips and great affordable champagnes to check out.

Finding Budget-Conscious Champagnes 

There are definitely some delicious brut champagnes out there that blend affordability, crisp taste and quality.

Roederer Estate Brut, for instance, comes in at around $20 and features a robust, oak-aged fruity essence. It’s bright and citrusy without being overbearing.

http://www.totalwine.com/eng/product/roederer-estate-brut/454750

Another standout brut champagne from California is Gloria Ferrer Sonoma. Like Roaderer Estate, Gloria Ferrer Sonoma blends a fruity essence with smoother notes. In this case, you’re getting a mixture of pear and an almond aftertaste.

http://www.gloriaferrer.com

The secret to these two budget champagne’s is their appellation in California’s vineyards and dedication to quality ingredients. Gloria Ferrer Sonoma starts with nearly two dozen base wines to ultimately give a rich, bubbly and extremely budget-friendly final product.

Wine Spectator magazine even conceded that Gloria Ferrer Sonoma deserved a score in the 90s due to its complex taste that blended pear, cinnamon and raspberry without being overbearing.

Since Gloria Ferrer Sonoma sells for between $15 and $25, you won’t have to break the bank to find out what all the praise is about.

Overall, though, you should keep your eyes peeled for low-cost bruts that bring together an eclectic range of base wines with California appellations.

Nitty-Gritty Specifics to Look For 

Price is obviously a primary consideration when you need a few affordable stand-by (or stand-in) bottles of champagne or you know that quantity is going to trump discernment on, say, a riotous New Year’s celebration.

You should be keeping your eyes peeled for an affordable champagne – under $50 – that draws from a host of quality base wines to form the champagne’s cuvee.

An eclectic range of base wines that undergo two fermentations should also provide more bubbles and ultimately a richer taste. Also be aware that base wines that are tank fermented tend to provide a more airy, fruity taste.

Another thing to keep in mind is that although many brut champagnes tend to have moderate sweetness, there are extra dry champagnes out there that give you more idiosyncratic and interesting honeydew and brioche flavors.

Remember that the majority of budget champagnes tend to be bruts, and make sure you find an affordable champagne that draws from many base wines to bring out a delicious, fruity aftertaste.