Types of production processes and Levels of Dosage

Classification according to production process

The picture shows a cave of sparkling wines.  Copyright: Schlumberger Wein- und Sektkellerei
Sparkling wine cave, © Schlumberger Wein- und Sektkellerei

Méthode Traditionelle (traditional bottle fermentation)

The Méthode Traditionelle, previously known as Méthode Champenoise, is the oldest, most complex method for making champagne or sparkling wine. The term  “Méthode Champenoise” is permitted only for products from the Champagne region. In Austria, “Méthode Traditionelle” or  “Traditionelle Flaschengärung” (“traditional bottle fermentation”) are allowed and commonly used. With the Méthode Traditionelle, wine with yeast and a liqueur de tirage (a special sugar solution) are put into bottles and sealed with crowned corks. The second fermentation takes place in the bottle. The yeast converts the added sugar into alcohol. The naturally produced carbon dioxide that comes into being as a result cannot escape the bottle, so binds itself to the wine and creates a level of pressure measuring 5 to 6 bar in the bottle. After the fermentation process is complete, the Sekt is matured “on the lees”; the longer the maturation, the finer the mousseux. In order to remove the yeast after the maturing of the Sekt, the bottles are placed diagonally upside down in a riddling rack or “pupitre”; here the yeasts will gravitate to the walls of the bottle. The bottles are turned daily one eighth of their circumference (riddled) and each time slightly moved more toward vertical in the rack. This riddling procedure (French “remuage”) occurs some 32 times, which results in even the finest yeast particles moving into the neck of the bottle. This process can take six weeks or even longer. Riddling can be accomplished far more speedily with gyropallets: 500 or more bottles lie in a cage-like rack, and will be turned at regular intervals in the course of far fewer days, so that the yeasts collect themselves in the neck of the bottles. Then the sparkling wine is "disgorged”, a process through which the yeast is removed. The bottle necks are immersed in a cold brine solution, which ultimately freezes the yeast. Following this, the bottle is opened and the plug of yeast and ice will be expelled by the pressure generated by carbon dioxide from the second fermentation. Before the bottle is sealed with a natural cork, a dosage, which helps determine the sparkling wine's flavour, is added. The composition of the dosage is a well-kept secret of the cellar master. With the Méthode Traditionelle, the sparkling wine remains with every meticulous step, from beginning to end, in the same bottle.

Transfer Method (partial bottle fermentation)

With the Transfer Method, secondary fermentation takes place just as it does with Méthode Traditionelle - in the bottle. After fermentation is complete, however, the content of the bottles is transferred under counter-pressure to the tanks. The yeast residue and solids are removed by means of filtration before addition of the dosage and rebottling, rather than through riddling and disgorgement as in the méthode traditionnelle. This means of production is relevant above all to the bottling of special formats (Jereboam, Rehoboam, etc.). Advantage: the bottles do not have to be riddled, but the indication “bottle fermented” is permissible.

Méthode Charmat

The Charmat method also involves yeast and the liqueur de tirage being added to the base wine. In high pressure vessels, the base wine undergoes a second fermentation, which converts the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. During maturation, this process is supported by stirrers. Upon completion of the maturation process, the sparkling wine is filtered and undergoes 2-3 weeks of cooling; then it is provided with the appropriate dosage and filled in bottles via a counter-pressure bottler. This method is used mostly for inexpensive sparkling wines, that are designed to be consumed young, or those whose fruity nature stands in the foreground.

Levels of Dosage

Designation

Residual sugar content

extra brut / brut nature / extra herb

0 - 6 g/l

brut / herb

up to 12 g/l

extra trocken / très sec / extra dry

12 - 17 g/l

trocken / sec / dry / secco

17 - 32 g/l

halbtrocken / demi sec / medium dry

32 - 50 g/l

mild / doux / sweet / dolce

above 50 g/l