Carbonating or Sparkling a Wine

The Champagne Method

Sparkling Wine: The Champagne ** Method
Producing sparkling wine is simple, but it does require more steps than regular winemaking. During fermentation, yeast consumes sugars in grape juice to create alcohol and carbon dioxide gas (CO2). Normally the CO2 escapes. However, when the wine is sealed in champagne bottles, the CO2 is captured and carbonates the wine, creating the tiny bubbles that make sparkling wine so delightful.
Good choices for sparkling wines are fruity, full-bodied whites with good (but not excessive) acidity. Chardonnay and Chardonnay-style wines are an excellent choice. People who prefer German-style sparkling wine (Sekt) should use Riesling-type wines, and pink bubbly can be made from blush wines. The champagne process takes approximately 4½ months, and the wine should be aged for several months before drinking.
CAUTION! The fermentation process creates tremendous pressure: the bottles must withstand over 90 pounds per square inch. Only proper champagne bottles can be used. Any other bottle may shatter, possibly causing a very dangerous shower of glass.
Preparing the sparkling wine base
1. Produce a 23 litre (5 Imp. gallon) wine kit (white or rosé) in the normal way, up to the stabilizing and clearing day (Day 20 or 28). Do not add the red or blue packages.. This is very important because these packages contain enough sulphite and potassium sorbate to prevent the wine from carbonating properly
2. On the stabilizing and clearing day, rack the wine into a sanitized primary fermenter. Dissolve ¼ teaspoon of metabisulphite powder in 125 ml (½ cup) of cool water and add to the wine. This amount will prevent the wine from oxidizing, but will not hamper yeast during bottle carbonation. Add the finings (bentonite, gelatin, kieselsol), following the kit instructions. Remember: Do not add the sorbate or sulfites.
3. Rack your wine back into a clean, sanitized carboy. Wait 10 days.
4. Observe your wine. When clear, it is ready to be made into sparkling wine. It does not need to be filtered.
1. Rack the wine from the carboy into a sanitized primary fermenter. Avoid disturbing the sediment. Dissolve 325 ml (1¾ cups) white table sugar in 500 ml (2 cups) boiling water. Stir thoroughly and gently into wine.
2. Carefully rehydrate one package of Lalvin EC-1118 champagne yeast following these instructions exactly: stir the yeast into 50 ml (1¤5 cup) of water at 40°C (100°F). Wait 5 minutes, then stir yeast thoroughly and gently into wine.
3. Syphon your wine into the champagne bottles, leaving 2.5 cm (1 inch) of space at the top of each bottle.
4. If your champagne bottles accept crown caps, cap them now. Otherwise, insert plastic stoppers and wire them down using wire cages and a wire-twisting tool (available from Wine Cave). Remember, using anything other than a proper champagne bottle could result in dangerous breakage.
5. Store bottles on their sides at 19–23°C (65–75°F) for two months to carbonate.
After two months, invert the bottles (place them cap down) in wine boxes to allow the yeast sediment to collect in the neck of the bottle. To assist this sediment formation, raise each bottle about 5 cm (2 inches), twist sharply ¼ turn, then drop back into the box. This is called riddling, and should be repeated once a day for two to three weeks. (When riddling, please wear gloves, long sleeves and eye protection.) The inverted wine should then be aged for approximately two more weeks, until it is completely clear.
Degorging 1: Preparing your dosage (topping wine)
Because the sediment collects in the neck of the bottle, you will be able to remove it. This is called degorging. However, degorging results in the loss of a small amount of wine, so it's necessary to top up bottles to avoid low fill levels and oxidation. For your topping wine, choose something similar to your sparkling wine base and chill it; you'll need between 50 and 100 ml (1/5–1/3 cup) per bottle. (If you wish to sweeten your sparkling wine, dissolve a half cup of white table sugar in every litre of wine used for dosage. Gently warm the dosage wine to help dissolve the sugar. Then chill the sweetened dosage.)
Degorging 2: Freezing
Remove the sparkling wine from the box, still inverted, and place in your freezer, inverted. Allow it to chill, monitoring the bottles frequently. When ice crystals form in the neck of the bottle, it is ready to be degorged. (Do not allow bottles to freeze completely: they will break, releasing wine inside your freezer).
Degorging 3: Popping the cork
This is best done outdoors—or in a room where the walls, floor and ceiling can easily be washed—due to possible gushing of the carbonated wine.
1. Remove the bottle from the freezer. Keep it inverted.
2. * While holding the bottle upside-down, remove the crown cap or undo the wire and carefully pop the cork. The pressure will free the cork and push the sediment out of the bottle in one step. As it gushes free, cover the neck of the bottle with your thumb and turn it right-side up. (You need a quick thumb to avoid losing much wine!)
3. Once the sediment is ejected from the wine, top the bottle with your topping wine. Be careful to pour the topping wine down the side of the bottle to prevent foaming.
4. Recork with a sanitized plastic stopper. Wire down securely
Age your wine for at least a month before trying it.
Notes about sparkling wine
You will have the most success with plastic stoppers. Cork stoppers are difficult to insert correctly using hand equipment, and can be difficult to extract.
Sparkling wine will improve tremendously with age. While it may be tempting to drink it all as soon as it is degorged, try keeping back a few bottles for a year or more. You'll be delighted with the results.
** The word 'Champagne' is the trademarked name of a wine region in France. The term cannot be used to describe sparkling wine from other countries. However, it is used here to refer to the correct type of bottle, and to the method for making sparkling wine.
2.* If you don't wish to go through the riddling and degorging process, simply store the bottles upright in boxes to allow the sediment to collect on the bottom. Chill before serving and pour carefully. Leave the last ½ inch of wine in the bottle