méthode champenoise

Pronunciation: [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 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. After riddling comes disgorging (or dégorgement), whereby the sediment is removed. Just before final bottling, a "shipping dosage" () 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.

From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

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