Standing ankle deep in Cap Classique, I was fiddling through the broken glass assessing the death toll. Almost 2000 of the original 3000 bottles kicked the bucket under the tremendous heat and pressure – I was devastated. All my hard work for (almost) nothing.
At the time when the air conditioner buckled under the pressure, the Cap Classique had just finished its second bottle fermentation. The bottles, at this stage filled with sediment (dead yeast), wine and plenty of pressured CO2, were stacked on each other. They were basically halfway there! They still needed character, and the only way to add that, would be to implement the age old international method called patience. Yes, it only takes TIME, TIME and last but not least: TIME!!!!
You have to leave the bottles the exact way you stacked them and the process of AUTOLYSIS will start. The second fermentation stops when the yeast dies due to high concentrations of alcohol and pressure. Autolysis is the process where the yeast decomposes, one piece at a time. As it breaks up it will release certain flavour components to the sparkling wine and this is where the bottle fermentation character comes from, like nuances of marmite and rising dough. I recall from a visit to the famous cellar in Champagne France, Moët et Chandon, that they keep their Dom Pérignon Champagne for up to 8 years before Degorge (don’t worry, I’ll explain the term in next month’s newsletter).
AND the best of all: the only way to monitor the release of these flavours into the Champagne? – TASTING! Life‘s good.
But maybe not that good when two thirds of the liquid gold does not even make it to this stage!