Cultivating and elaborating
In spite of a visible simplicity, the culture of the vineyard and the elaboration of wine and champagne are fascinating and demanding jobs, that require precision. Besides, champagne presents several originalities that confer it a particular place within the greatest wines of this world.
Let us introduce you briefly this fascinating universe…
Three grape varieties that belong to the family of pinots are mainly used to produce grapes that compose the elaboration of champagne:
The Chardonnay (26%*)
White grape which gives a fresh and delicate wine.
The Pinot noir (37%*)
Black grape with colorless pulp which gives a robust wine and with a fine bouquet.
The Pinot Meunier (37 %*)
A black grape with a colorless pulp named “morillon” at the Middle Age. A little late compared with the pinot noir. It gives a wine close to some pinot noir but fruitier.
Because we are proud to know how work these demanding grape varieties and because we do not choose to take the easy road, you can discover them in 5 out of 7 Mater & Filii champagnes including the cuvées “Symphonie“, “Crescendo” and “Fût de chêne“.
More rarely, we can also find traditional grape varieties (on very limited surfaces, on a few hectares):
– The Arbane,
The most famous white wine, champagne, is mostly produced … from black grapes.
How is it possible ? By controlling, during the harvest, that the colorless pulp of the the grape is not stained by exterior skin of black grapes, because it’s the grapes skin that gives the pulp its red color.
* Of the cultivated area – Data recorded in 2016
Grape varieties in the Champagne region
Champagne is made using the champenoise method, sometimes called traditional method, which consists of fermenting the must twice, the first time in vats or in barrels, the second time inside the bottle, in the cellar.
First fermentation in vats or in barrels
The first fermentation, also called alcoholic fermentation, is done at a low temperature and identically to the one that still wine (i.e. not effervescent) undergo. This process can be followed – but it is not always the case – with malolactic fermentation. The cellar master will allow malolactic fermentation if he wishes some structured champagne. He will avoid it and thus will stop the fermentation at the end of the alcoholic fermentation – if he wishes some sharper wine.
At the beginning of the year (depending on the harvest) and after several filterings, wine is clear enough to be tasted and thus we can proceed to the assembly. As this crucial stage can have important consequences, it is completed with rigor by our cellar masters, Florence MACHET and Jérôme CORBON. Every year and in variable proportions, they assemble varietal wine , vintage wine (wine from Troissy and Dormans) and kinds of wine with different ages (in the appellation champagne) to assure you a continuity in the oenological and organoleptic qualities of wine and the constancy of taste concerning your cuvées.
Second fermentation in bottles
When it’s time to bottle the wine obtained, we add the “liqueur de tirage” made of sugar and yeast. Yeast will consume the sugar, transform it into alcohol and release some carbon dioxide which makes wine naturally sparkling. This liqueur de tirage thus engages the second and last fermentation, also called “prise de mousse”. Wine bottles are then corked with metallic capsules similar to that of beer bottles.
Bottles are put in deep cellars and lie there. Then begins the wine aging period of 15 months at least (“statutory period” says Jérôme, as a jurist reflex) for non-vintage wine, and of three years or more for vintage cuvées. Based on how long wine from each cuvée can be kept, and on the year of the harvest, the Mater & Filii champagnes rest between 2 and 5 years in the cellars. Just like the first one, the second fermentation produces abundant dregs that have to be removed from the wine afterward.
After this slow aging process, bottles are inclined with their neck facing down are their are placed on special shelves. Regularly, bottles (or the shelves) are are moved one-eighth or a quarter tour to remove dregs from the inside of the bottle and make them come down towards the neck. With the bottles progressively standing up again and an alternate rotation (at first to the right, then to the left) all dregs will gather against the capsule after approximately two months. Bottles are then stored with their tip facing down, on points.
To hunt sediments, we put the top of the neck into a bath of brine at – 25°C (-13°F) for a few minutes. It creates a small ice cube which catches the sediments. When the capsule is removed, sediments and the ice cube are expelled by the pressure inside the bottle (approximately 6 atmospheres). It is the disgorging stage.
Once the disgorging is done, the bottles of champagne – measured out or not – are closed with a cork held by a muselet. Then the bottles are put in a cellar for an ultimate aging period before you can actually taste their champagne.
The wine-making process