sparkling wine route

How Sparkling Wine is Made

  • The process begins the same way all wine is made.
  • Sparkling wine is commonly made from blend of a Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes. The grapes are picked and crushed.  The juice of the grapes ferments and becomes wine.
  • The wine is poured into heavy-duty wine bottles.  The winemaker adds a mixture of sugar and yeast to the wine so that the wine will undergo a second fermentation.
  • The bottle is then capped. Because the bottle is capped, carbon dioxide gas (product of fermentation) is trapped in the bottle. These are the bubbles in sparkling wine. This is called Methode Champenoise, the traditional French method of making Champagne.
  • When the yeast consumes all the sugar, the second fermentation ends. This leaves a residue in the wine.
  • After the wine has aged, machines shake the racks of bottles so that the yeast residue ends up in the neck of the bottle. This is called riddling. Before machines, riddling was done by hand. A riddler would stand by the rack of bottles, the bottle neck facing in and downwards. The riddler would grab two bottles, one in each hand, twist each bottle a quarter of a turn, and then bang the bottle into the rack. This would force the residue to the neck of the bottle.
  • When the wine is aged appropriately, the bottles are brought to an assembly line.
    1. The neck of the bottle is frozen
    2. The cap is removed from the bottle and the frozen residue is pops free. This is called disgorgement.
    3. The bottle is then filled with a mixture called a dosage. This mixture causes the wine to contain a level of sweetness.  The most common terms to describe the sweetness in sparkling wine is Brut, Extra Dry, Sec, and Doux, being the sweetest.
    4. A sparkling wine cork is squeezed into the bottle and the wire shield is placed over the cork and tied to the neck of the bottle.
    5. The bottles are labeled and boxed.
  • Inexpensive sparkling wines do not use Methode Champenoise. They create a second fermentation in large tanks, then fill the bottles.
  • What is the difference between Champagne and sparkling wine? Champagne is sparkling wine. Only sparkling wines made from vineyards in the great Champagne region of France can be labeled Champagne.


Wineries on our Wine Trails that make quality sparkling wine

Napa/Carneros – Champagne Wine Trail

  • Gloria Ferrer
  • Domaine Carneros
  • Domaina Chandon
  • Mumm Napa
  • Schramsberg