PRESSING THE GRAPES (late September, early October)
Once the grapes have been picked, they are pressed in presses. A pneumatic press like this one (photo) hold's one marc, which is 4 metric tones of grapes. Each variety of grape is pressed separetely. The quantity of grape -juice called must obtained from these 4 metric tones is 2.550 litres. This amount is limited in order to assure that the must is of excellent quality.
- The first pressing is called "the cuvée" and consists of 2.050 litres of must. This is the best of the must, as it comes from the center of the grape. This cuvée is used for future blending.
- The second pressing or taille is the name given to the remaining 500 litres of must from the load (marc).
We stored the must in vats for about 24 hours during wich the sediment settles onto the bottom of the vat. Then we pump the must into another vat, leaving behind the sediment. This process is carried out just once. The must is put into a fermentation tank.
THE FERMENTATION PROCESS
The first fermentation is the transformation of must into alcohol. The must contains natural sugar (but we add a dose more or less large of sugar). We also add yeast to the must. This yeast transforms the sugar into alcohol in about 10 days. Carbonic gas is produced during the fermentation process, and the must becomes still wine. The temperature of the wine, wich needs to be constant 20°c. We have thermo-regulated vats.
We realise the second fermentation in November by down to lowering the temperature until 11°c, wich kills the bacteria. The wine remains in vats for some months before being blended and bottled in March, April and May.
Before being bottled, the wine is blended that it takes place inside the vat. We taste the wine from each variety in order to choose wich combinations of the different wines will be used to make up the different blends. We make these blends during a collective tasting with the workers, to determine the differents blends and the vintages.
Once the blending has been carried out (in January or February), but before bottling the wine, we cool it in order to crystalize the tartric acid. This tartric acid is removed while the wine is still in the vat so that it doesn't crystalize inside the bottle. The wine is filtered to clear it.
FROTHING: WINE BECOMES CHAMPAGNE
We add yeast and dose of sugar to the wine in order to spark off yet another fermentation, but inside the bottle. Then we bottled the wine. Once the wine ferments in the bottle, it becomes sparkling wine, and be called Champagne. At this stage, we place a hollow plastic cylinder (called a "bidule") in the neck of the bottle and a crown cap (where the cork will eventually be).
(During March and May) The yeast changes the sugar into dioxide (CO²), producing bubbles, and the wine wich was "still wine" until now, becomes "sparkling wine". The pressure in the bottle is six bars. The frothing process lasts about a month we let warm gently the cellar.
We stacke the bottles on lattes. We leave them to rest here four years minimum up to ten years for vintages. It's necessary to notice that the legal minimum is fifteen months and three years for vintages. During this time, the Champagne ages.
We stacke the bottle in order to loosen the sediment from the sides and from the bottom of the bottle. The bottle is placed almost horizontally on a riddling rack where it will be turned. We leave it to rest for about a week. After a week it is revolved each day 45° for about twenty days. The bottle is titled upwards very slightly while it is being turned. This double movement helps the sediment to slide down into the neck of the bottle.
When we finish turning the bottle it is an alomst vertical position (about 65°). We also have some gyropalette wich is controlled electrically and 504 bottles can be turned at the same time. After this "riddling" period the bottle is stored in a wooden palette crate until it is time to disgorge the Champagne.
Disgorging is the removal of the sediment from the neck of the bottle. We freez the neck of the bottle in a tank of saline. The sediment is trapped between a small block of ice and the "bidule" (describe in the frothing). The bottle can now be placed upright, the cap and the "bidule", the ice and the sediment are removed.
Once the sediment has been removed we add a dose more or less of liqueur to differentiate between an extra dry and a medium dry. Then, the bottle is corked on a pneumatic machine, now we add the wine-cage. Next, the bottle is shaken so that the liqueur can blend with the Champagne. The bottle is left to rest in crates for several months.