From still to sparkling wine – the art of composition

Wine is indisputably an elixir of enhanced enjoyment. Over a glass of wine, putting your feet up with a good book is exponentially more pleasurable. Wine is a serene, supportive accompaniment to good food and good conversation.

Sparkling wine in all its national variants promises an associatively heightened enjoyment of the wine involved. Sparkling wine symbolises a world of revelry, of love, of victory, of decadence even. The serving of sekt and champagne is in itself a ceremonial act. This is hardly surprising if you know how elaborate and time-consuming the production process for sparkling wine really is.

The quality and the character of a sparkling wine, be it sekt, prosecco, cava or champagne, is crucially determined by the master cellarer, who selects and blends different base wines. The marriage of disparate wines is called a “cuvée”. A successful cuvée is mostly more balanced than each single one of the wines used can hope to be by itself. When first selecting the wines concerned, the master cellarer estimates how they are going to behave as they subsequently evolve into sekt.

Only with the second fermentation of the wine does it acquire its “sparkle”. That’s why after the rest period the cuvée is given a “tirage liqueur”, which consists of some wine with sugar crystals dissolved in it, plus an admixture of pure-cultured yeast. There are two methods used for the second fermentation: traditional bottle fermentation and modern-day barrel fermentation.

Upon completion of the second fermentation, the sekt has gained its carbon dioxide content, but lost its natural quota of sugar. For this reason, now it is absolutely dry, it is adjusted using what is called “expédition liqueur”. Here, for post-fermentation in the bottle, a precisely measured quantity of sugar dissolved in wine is added, which determines whether the sekt will be brut, dry, semi-dry or mild.

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