December 2017 Wine Alliance Notes


December 2017

It’s Bubbles December! Around Vif we try not to get stuck on tradition but really, does any other type of wine say “festive” like sparkling wine?! It’s really hard not to indulge in seasonal spirit so why bother. This month we want to stock you with a few bottles that are sure to add to the joy you're creating.

As a starting point it’s good to have a basic understanding of how bubbles wind up in wine. Fermentation occurs when hungry yeast cells in a vat of grape juice feast on the sugars found in the juice. The sugars are converted into alcohol and carbon dioxide (CO2). There’s a lot of CO2 released during fermentation. If you keep a tank open during the fermentation process all the CO2 will be released into the atmosphere. If you don’t, the CO2 will be captured in the wine and will stay there until the tank is opened at which point the CO2 is released in the form of bubbles! It’s important to know that any wine could be sparkling if the wine maker decides to harness that CO2. It’s good to know that there are a number of ways to do that i.e. Méthode Traditionnelle, Méthode Ancestrale, Charmat and even simple carbonation for some bulk wine production.

Our focus this month is on Méthode Traditionnelle – formerly known as Méthode Champenoise. In this case the wine goes through two alcoholic fermentations.

The first fermentation, done in a tank or barrel, creates a still wine and the second fermentation, done in bottle, creates and traps the bubbles. That second fermentation is initiated when the winemaker adds yeast and sugar, made from grapes, to the still wine. Once the bubbles are in the bottle the wine must be disgorged which is the process of removing the spent yeast cells. Some liquid is always lost during disgorgement so at this point the sparking wine is topped up and may or may not receive a dosage. The dosage is an addition of sugar that determines the final style and balance of the wine. When you see the terms Brut or Brut Nature on a bottle they are in reference to the dosage.

Here’s a little chart that will help you understand the style of a sparkling wine.
(dosage is measured in grams of sugar per liter of liquid)

Brut Nature, Zero Dosage = no sugar added and less than 3g/l

Extra Brut = 0-6 g/l

Brut = 0-15 g/l

Extra Dry = 12-20 g/l

Dry, Sec = 17-35 g/l

Demi Sec = 33-50

Doux, Sweet = more than 50 g/l

Check out this video! It shows the process of hand disgorging, adding dosage, corking, caging and labeling bottles in the cellar of Anselme Selosse, a very famous Champage producer…it’s in French but just watching will teach you a lot about the complex process of making sparkling wine.

Focus Club

Pascal Doquet Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru Extra Brut, Champagne FR $50

Grape – Chardonnay

Costadilà Vino Frizzante da Tavola 450slm, IT $26

Grape – Glera


Everyday Club

2014 Avinyó Cava Brut Reserva, SP $20

Grapes – Macabeu, Xarel-lo, Parellada

Vinyes Singulars Cava Brut Nature, SP $17

Grapes – Macabeu, Xarel-lo, Parellada