Champagne is made mainly from three grape varieties.
-Chardonnay grape is light green in colour and so gracefully adapts to a divergent array of terroir. While France is the grape’s spiritual home, especially in the various Burgundy appellations, it also produces high quality wine in America, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, South Africa and numerous other countries.
-Pinot Noir, the red wine grapes of Burgundy is a key champagne grape, and takes its name from a combination of the French word, meaning Pine. The word Noir comes from the grape skins natural very dark red colour. The Pinot Noir grape is an important wine grape in the region of Champagne, where it is either used on its own to make wine and Champagne, or a blending grape with Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.
-Pinot Meunier is the third grape variety used in the blends of Champagne, Pinot Meunier adds a fruity and fresh taste to the Champagne. The fact that Pinot Meunier is higher in acidity than the Pinot Noir, this grape is rarely sold as a single product. This grape buds very late and ripens early and is consistently important in the region. Though Meunier is rarely sold as a single variety it still requires one third of the vineyard in Champagne.
Most of the Champagnes are a blend of red grapes ( Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier) amounting to two thirds of the volume, and the rest is light green grape Chardonnay. Blanc de Blancs is 100 percent blend of the green grape Chardonnay, Blanc de Noirs is a 100 percent of the red grape Pinot Noir. Most Champagnes are blends of the three grape varieties, the reason being is each grape variety has its own strengths to contribute to the final blend. Pinot Noir adds structure, aroma, body and flavour, Pinot Meunier adds floral aromas and fruitiness into the Champagne and Chardonnay adds finesse, delicacy and freshness.
Yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) is a single cell fungus, which converts carbohydrates to carbon dioxide and then to alcohol. There are two type or main forms of yeast which is bakers yeast and brewers yeast.
Bakers yeast can be found at the grocery/supermarket store. Brewers yeast is either in dry form or liquid form.
Brewing yeast is created by turning wort into the desired alcoholic beverage. Wort is the liquid left over after the mashing process during brewing. Wort and liquid contain the sugars that the yeast reacts to.
There are many types and varieties of brewing yeast on the market to compliment the beverage of choice. Each one of them has different advantages, such as champagne yeast is willing to yield more bubbles than other types of normal wine yeast. Wine yeast is suitable for wine and cider because the fruit turns into carbon dioxide and then into alcohol.
There are several types of champagne yeasts. The most common are:
Pasteur Champagne: Pasteur Champagne makes Champagne and sparkling wines ferment quickly and effectively in colder temperatures. It is also tolerant of medium-to-high alcohol conditions, which are common in wine production.
Epernay: Epernay is another kind of Champagne yeast, which is used for bottle fermenting as it ferments slowly and is tolerant to cold temperatures. Fermenting temperature should be between 10 degrees to 21 degrees Celsius.
Premier Cuvée: Permier Cuver or Prise de Mousse is ideal for barrel fermentation. It is better suited for secondary fermentation in sparkling wine and still production.
Attention to attenuation
Attenuation refers to the percentage of malt sugar the yeast converts to carbon dioxide and ethanol.
High Attenuation is 76%-80%
Medium Attenuation is 71%-75%
Low Attenuation is 65%-70%
Champagne Liqueur d’expedition and Liqueur tirage
Their differences and how they are used.
Liqueur d’expedition and liqueur tirage both are additions that are sugar based. Liqueur tirage is a blend of beet or fine cane sugar which has been added with the yeast to the Champagne to instigate secondary fermentation. Additions that are vital in the production of Champagne. Secondary fermentation creates the unique and magical all important mousse, while the liqueur d’expedition adds a degree of sugar and post fermentation, to balance and create the worlds most sought after wine
Once a producer has assembled their desired blend from the myriad of base wines, they will now seek the magical sparkle. This is achieved by the addition of liqueur tirage prior to bottling, for the second fermentation known as prise de mousse.
Liqueur tirage which has been dissolved in the wine will be added along with the yeast. Commonly a fining agent such as bentonite will also be added as it assists in the subsequent remuage. Its purpose is to prevent the yeast from adhering to the side of the bottle.
Champagne Sweetness (Sugar)
The wine and champagne sweetness comes from the natural sugar of the grape itself and is called Residual Sugar (RS). RS also includes levels of fructose and glucose. Measuring RS is commonly in grams/litres.
Brut Nature>3g per litre
Extra Brut>6g per litre
Brut>12g per litre
Extra Dry 12>17g per litre
Sec 17>32g per litre
Demi-sec 32>50g per litre
Doux = 50g per litre