What is Méthode Champenoise?

Whether it is called Champagne or sparkling wine, what is really important is how the wine is made.  The best Champagnes and sparkling wines are made by méthode champenoise which requires a secondary fermentation in the bottle.

This secondary fermentation is accomplished by adding a mixture of sugar and yeast, called the liqueur de tirage, to still wine. This wine is then bottled and capped, with a bottle cap similiar to ones found on beer bottles – not a cork. The yeast acts on the sugar and the resulting carbon dioxide remains trapped in the bottle. Quality sparkling wines are usually left on their yeast for several months, even up to six years. At the end of this process the cap is removed and replaced with the traditional cork with wire cage.

The important thing to remember is that the secondary fermentation happens in the bottle in quality sparkling wines. If you see the word “charmat” it means the secondary fermentation happened in a large tank, usually an indicator of a lesser quality wine.

Terms used in Méthode Champenoise Production:

Assemblage A preliminary combining and blending of wines from
different vineyards after the first racking.
Bead A bubble forming in or on a beverage; used to mean CO2 bubbles in general or sometimes to the ring of bubbles around the edge of the
Blanc de blanc Champagne made from white grapes.
Blanc de noir Champagne made from the juice of Pinot noir; may
impart a light salmon color to the wine.
Cremant A very lightly sparkling, creamy, and frothy wine, usually higher in sugar content.
Cuvée Literally tubful or vatful, this refers to a particular
blend to be used for sparkling wine.
Dégorgement The disgorging or removal of the plug of sediment
collected on the cork during riddling.
Dosage Same as dosage in English: an amount of sweetener added back
to the bottle after dégorgement.
Liqueur de tirage The mixture of sugar added to the cuvée for
the second fermentation.
Méthode champenoise Traditional champagne production method that
promotes a second fermentation in the bottle.
Mousse Froth, foam; frothy or sparkling; used as a synonym with crémant.
Pupitres The hinged sloping racks used to hold bottles during
the riddling process.
Remuage Refers to the riddling or turning of the bottles to dislodge
yeast sediment and allow it to collect on the cork.
Remueur Refers to the person who riddles the bottles.
Tirage Refers to drawing off the base wine combined with sugar and
yeast for second fermentation in the bottle or a tank.
Vin de reserve Some of the base wine held in reserve in which
the sugar for the dosage is dissolved.