By Sarah James
The history of champagne and sparkling wine is one that involves the refinement of particular wine making processes, from the early discovery of how to create bubbles using secondary fermentation, to the use of a Methode Champenoise to create high quality wines. While you might want to invest in different kinds of pre-made champagne and sparkling wines, it’s also worth considering how you can make champagne at home. This can be achieved in several ways.
In terms of home brewing, you can opt for a simpler fermentation process, or a variation on the Methode Champenoise. The former approach involves using champagne yeast, grape juice, and sugar to perform a two step fermentation. For this, you’ll need brewing caps, a hydrometer, a bottle capper, and the right grape varieties – Chardonnay, Riesling, and Pinot Noir are typical options to take. When preparing your ingredients you’ll need to ensure that your hydrometer is set to a gravity level of between 1.070 and 1.080 to get the right results.
You can start the champagne making process by first creating white wine through a standard fermentation routine – you can find base wine and brewing kits to help you with this approach. White grape juice can be bottled and mixed with sugar and yeast, and left to gradually ferment until the wine has taken on a cloudy appearance with yeast sediment – the wine can then be siphoned off into a bucket or barrel to remove this sediment.
The next step to take is to create a syrup for the champagne by mixing one part water and two parts sugar, which can be boiled and stirred into wine, before being capped. The wine can be left to stand in a cool place for about 3 months, until it has become crystal clear, and sediment has gathered at the bottom of the wine; the bottle can then be refrigerated.
If you’re feeling more ambitious, the Methode Champenoise can be used to make champagne at home. Create your base wine, which should have an alcohol content no higher than 11.5 per cent, as well as no additional stabilisers. You should then remove deposits as part of a normal fermentation, before adding a cup of sugar into the wine, which can be transferred into sparkling wine bottles and capped for 6-12 weeks at 15 to 20 degrees, or room temperature.
You’ll then have to disgorge the yeast from the bottles, which involves using a cardboard carton or a rack to turn a bottle upside down; the bottle should be half turned every day for two to three weeks until sediment is transferred towards the cap. Freezing the neck of a bottle can also help to dislodge sediment, which can be quickly removed once you remove the stopper – make sure that you cover up the top of a bottle as soon as the sediment has been removed, though, otherwise you can end up losing most of the liquid within.
Sarah is committed to finding the best examples of champagne from around the world. She can be found online blogging about food and drink and loves to learn more about different wines and wine making.