What is Méthode Traditionelle Sparkling Wine?
- Howard Park
Best known by its crystal ultra-premium bubbles, our companion at celebrations and important events, it christens our ships, welcomes our New Year, and gently helps the caviar and oysters along the path to culinary nirvana. If you see the words ‘Méthode Traditionelle’ on a bottle of sparkling wine, then it has been made using the methods originally developed in the Champagne region of France.
Many people complain of headaches after one sip of sparkling wine, but this result can often times be easily averted. There are several different production methods, all of which affect the quality of the end product.
"Drinking Sparkling Wine made by the Méthode Traditionelle is an effective way to avoid a Champagne headache. It may not cure every alcohol related headache, but generally people can enjoy a headache-free glass of Sparkling Wine if it’s Méthode Traditionelle."
The technique requires hand-harvested grapes. Each bunch is in the field carefully inspected to eliminate rotten, or under ripe grapes. Bunches are basket pressed and the juice is fermented using specially cultivated yeasts. Using wines from different vineyards creates the blend called cuvee. To this blend (cuvee), sugar and yeast are added then the wine is bottled and secured with a crown cap. The bottles are stored in special racks and undergo a secondary fermentation. Because the bottles are sealed, the CO2 produced by the yeast is dissolved in the wine.
Photo to left: Gyropalettes for riddling Méthode Traditionelle sparkling wines, on location at Howard Park Wines new Sparkling Facility in Margaret River, Western Australia
The bottles are stored on their sides and riddled by a state of the art gyropalette machine during the fermentation process. Riddling (reumage) is a process in which the bottles are twisted to shake the sediment loose and gradually angled downwards until they are fully inverted. This helps compact the yeast sediment into the neck of the bottle. This is done repeatedly until the bottles are fully inverted and all the sediment is packed into the neck.
When complete, the neck of the bottle is frozen, the cap removed, the frozen plug of sediment and wine removed, the bottle topped up with wine, and corked. This is done quickly to avoid the loss of the effervescence.
"This is a very labour-intensive production method that produces extremely fine bubbles in the wine."
Photo: David W Burch and Jeff Burch Sparkling Wines Hand Riddling racks
Other Methods of sparkling:
• Transfer method requires the second fermentation in large format bottles, which are opened and poured into large stainless steel tanks under pressure. The wine is clarified, the sugar level adjusted, and bottled under pressure. Transfer method-produced wines have medium-sized, and fewer bubbles than sparkling wines crafted by ‘Méthode Traditionelle’ (Champagne Method).
• Charmat Method, the wine is pumped into a tank and pressurized to create carbonated bubbles. Sugar is also added to the yeast for a second fermentation in the vats, not in individual bottles like the Méthode Traditionelle. It is a quick and cheap sparkling method made to be drunk soon after bottling instead of waiting years for it to mature. It is the extra sugar added that experts claim to be the source of the 'champagne headache'
• Carbonation Technique sparkling wines are made using on-the-fly carbonation in much the same fashion as beer. The fermented wine is pumped from the storage tank through a filter and into the bottling machine. CO2 gas is injected into the wine, while it is flowing from the filtration unit to the bottling machine. This method produces a wine with large and fewer bubbles that quickly dissipate.