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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" or Champagne method, is the most laborious means of production for Champagne, Sekt or sparkling wine. In Austria, the designations "méthode traditionelle" or traditional bottle fermentation are permissible and commonly used. Inthe "méthode traditionelle", the wine is treated with a mixture of yeast and a "liqueur de tirage" (a special sugar solution) introduced into the bottle that is then sealed with a crown cap, so that a second fermentation takes place in the bottle. The yeast transforms 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 conclusion of this secondary fermentation process, the Sekt rests "on the lees" for maturing; the longer this interval of ageing lasts, the finer the bead of 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 (French "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 Sekt can be "disgorged", by which process the spent yeasts are removed. Normally this is accomplished as follows: the neck of the bottle is submerged in a cold salt-water bath, which causes the yeasts to freeze. 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 then sealed with a closure of natural cork, the "liqueur d'expédition" is added, which determines the finished degree of sweetness in the Sekt. Composition of this dosage is customarily a well-kept secret of the cellar master. In the méthode traditionelle, the Sekt remains from the first painstaking step in its production to the last step 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 and ripening in the bottle are 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 traditionelle. 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 (a special sugar solution) 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

DesignationResidual sugar content
brut nature / brut zero0-3 g/l
extra brut / extra herb0-6 g/l
herb / brut0-12 g/l
extra trocken / extra dry / très sec12-17 g/l
trocken / secco / dry / sec17-32 g/l
halbtrocken / demi sec / medium dry32-50 g/l
doux / mild / sweet / dolce> 50 g/l