Remuage and metodo charmat. Pupitres and liquer de tirage. Degorgement, sur lies and pas dosè. The magic of sparkling wine lies also in its words. It has been this way since the jolly Benedictine monk Dom Perignon perfected sparkling wine production in Hautvillers, a famous village of Champagne, forever influencing the dictionary of the wine world.
If you don’t know French, don’t worry; at Casa Coppo we use those words every day to make sparkling wine, and we’ll fill you in on what they mean. For over a century, since the first Italian sparkling method was patented in Canelli, we’ve been producing high quality spumanti that today are recognized and awarded around the world (just take a look at the 95/100 points our Riserva Coppo received from the guide of Daniele Cernilli).
So uncork a Metodo Classico, invite over your friends or family for dinner, and mention a couple of these sparkling French words. Ca va sans dire, you’ll definitely impress them!
- CHAMPENOISE (bonus word: SUR LIES)
This is where it all starts. The method champenoise is the traditional method, also known as METODO CLASSICO, which distinguishes artisan production of sparkling wines from spumante. In this method, the wine undergoes a series of manual operations discussed below and a long bottle aging that allows the secondary fermentation to begin. During the aging and secondary bottle fermentation, the wines develop aromas while resting on their lees, sur lies, or their yeasts that initiated fermentation.
2. CUVÉE (bonus word: MILLÉSIME)
The process starts with the “base wine,” which may be a cuvée (or mix) of various grape varieties, the most common of which are pinot nero and chardonnay. If the cuvée is composed of at least 85% of grapes of the same vintage, then the spumante is called “millesimato” or millésime and the vintage is indicated on the bottle. Millesimato sparkling wines, like our Clelia Coppo, Riserva Coppo, and Piero Coppo, are considered the most prestigious. Since they are normally made with a higher-quality base wine, they are able to age and express the uniqueness of their vintage.
3. PRISE DE MOUSSE (bonus word: LIQUER DE TIRAGE)
For a wine to become a sparkling Metodo Classico, selected yeasts and sugar (called liquer de tirage) are added during the bottling. Together, these initiate the secondary fermentation. The carbonation that results from fermentation remains trapped in the bottle, producing the effervescence, a process called the prise de mousse. Once the second fermentation has completed, the wine will undergo another aging in contact with the yeasts (sur lies, as stated above). How long the wine ages depends on the importance of the sparkling wine and winemaker’s choice. For the best sparkling wines, aging can last for years. After having served their initial function in producing carbonation, the yeasts have still not exhausted their activity; if left in the wine, they continue to enrich it, making it more elegant and aromatically complex.
4. REMUAGE (bonus word: DEGORGEMENT)
To present a clear wine to sell, the yeast, or lees, must be removed. The bottles are thus positioned at a downward-facing angle on A-frame racks called pupitres, and the riddling, or remuage, begins. This consists of giving the bottles a small shake and rotating them, often manually, by an eighth of a circle each day until the full rotation is complete. These two movements help the lees gradually move down towards the neck of the bottle. Once they are all there, the winemaker can begin degorgement (disgorgement), or extracting the lees, leaving the wine completely limpid. The neck of the bottle is frozen, and when it is opened, the contained pressure within the bottle pushes out the frozen sediments.
5. LIQUER D’EXPEDITION (bonus word: À VOTRE SANTÉ)
Once disgorgement is completed, the winemaker must bring the bottles back to the correct level, as some wine is inevitably lost during disgorgement. Two liquids may be added: a liquer d’expedition, or more of the wine itself, making a wine called “dosaggio zero” (zero dosage). The liquer d’expedition is usually a mix of wine and sugar, but may also include a minimal quantity of spirits. The dosage varies from producer to producer, so much as to give the sparkling wines a unique producer signature. It is the final touch in the complex enological art of making a Metodo Classico.
6. À VOTRE SANTÉ
Don’t forget to stopper the bottle and, for the final French touch to your evening, toast with, “À votre santé, to your health!”