After harvest, grapes are delicately pressed as whole clusters in our Coquard press. This specialized machine, designed in France, keeps the clusters stationary during press, rather than the more common rotating and tumbling bladder press. As a result, the juice comes into less contact with grape skins so the wine retains its more delicate fruit characters.
Sparkling wine goes through two fermentations. The first is an alcoholic fermentation. This takes place following press at cool temperatures, and produces wines at about 11% alcohol. These wines are blended, cold-stabilized, and filtered. At this point, we bottle them with additional sugar and yeast, a process called tirage. We seal the bottles with cup-shaped plastic inserts and metal crown caps, then stack them horizontally for the second fermentation, called the prise de mousse, or the setting of the sparkle. Following this second fermentation, the wine ages on its yeast lees, becoming softer and more complex. At J Vineyards & Winery, our sparkling wines can age anywhere from three to eight years depending on several factors. On average, our Cuvée 20 ages for three-to-five years and our Vintage Brut from five-to-eight years.
After aging, the sparkling wine is riddled, an operation that gathers the yeast sediment in the bottle and traps it in the cup-shaped plastic insert near the mouth. This used to be done by hand as one person would touch every single bottle multiple times twisting it every so. Today, we have “riddling cages” that hold 1008 bottles. These are automatically riddled, or turned, at the time and frequency determined by our Winemaker. We then place the bottles neck-down in a freezing solution, so that the liquid in the neck, including the yeast sediment, freezes. Once an ice plug has formed, the bottles are uncapped, and the plug with the yeast sediment trapped inside will literally shoot out as a result of the Sparkling wine’s pressure.
Finally, during dosage, we add a small amount of a sugar and reserve wine solution to the disgorged bottles as a final artistic gesture to add another layer of smoothness and complexity to the final blend. The wine will then lay down for six to twelve months prior to sale.
This fairly complex process is well worth the effort, giving us yet another reason to toast.