Exciting news this week as we start riddling our first ever sparkling wine samples for dosage trails. This strange looking cage in the photo below is currently holding just one layer of bottles but when full will hold 500 bottles and over a period of 7 days is set to very steadily move the bottles from a horizontal position to vertical. This is called ‘riddling’ and used to be done by hand! This causes the dead yeast in the bottles from the second fermentation to sink to the crown cap so that when this cap is removed, the ‘plug’ of yeast cells is fired out of the bottle so when you come to drink it the sparkling wine will be clear and free of bits!
Before the cork is then put in the bottle we will need to add what the ‘champenoise’ call ‘dosage’. This is generally a closely guarded secret blend of wine and sugar that not only tops up the bottle from any spillage during yeast removal, but also adds some sweetness to the wine to counterbalance the natural acidity of champagne. So that we can decide how much, if any, sugar to add in this ‘dosage’ we are now undertaking trials at different levels and then tasting them…..a fun and interesting exercise! Very, very few champagnes ever have no sugar added at this stage – and these maybe labelled ‘Zero Dosage’ or ‘Brut Nature’. Most champagnes are labelled ‘Brut’ which means they contain up to 12g/L of sugars……education section over for this month!
Meanwhile in the vineyard the relentless rain continues…….we’ve yet to start the winter pruning but can’t put it off much longer. The milder winter has also led to early bud swelling on the canes……how this will impact this seasons growth I’m not sure. The only thing I am sure of is that all of us, fruit growers, farmers and householders, will have to get used to the consequences of global warming….more extreme rainfall events, and I count my blessings we planted on free-draining sandstone geology!