You may have seen the term Méthode Champenoise when browsing or sipping sparkling wines. Forget that it may be a challenge to pronounce, what it means is actually not too complicated!
A sparkling wine can only be called Champagne if it’s produced in Champagne, France, but the method in which they create it extends far beyond the specific appellation of Champagne. Many high-quality sparkling wines use the same method. Here’s how it works:
Méthode Champenoise, known in the Anglophone wine world as the Traditional Method, consists of allowing a wine to go through a second fermentation inside the bottle. A sugar and yeast wine solution (known as liqueur de tirage) is added to the bottle of wine, the fermentation of which produces small, fine bubbles. After the yeast acts on the sugar and creates carbon dioxide, leftover from the process is lees, a component that is then removed and replaced with a sugar and wine mixture to slightly sweeten the finished product and bring it into balance.
This method creates quality Champagnes and sparkling wines, but it’s slow and labor intensive. Allowing the yeast to act on the sugars is a process that can take anywhere for seven months to several years. Some sparkling wine producers resort to Charmat, also known as the tank method, as an alternative to Traditional Method. It’s less expensive, conducive to mass production, and faster, as the second fermentation happens in large tanks. This produces, larger, coarser bubbles and a less refined finished product.
If you’re looking for a sparkling wine of high quality, your best bet is to search for one produced via Méthode Champenoise!