Champagne science: How is our favourite celebratory drink made?
Champagne begins life as a basic wine, created from a variety of grapes to provide a mix of juices that give it a smoother taste. By converting the natural sugar of the grapes into alcohol through fermentation and pressing, the carbon dioxide is initially removed. Champagne grapes tend to be more acidic but contain less sugar than those used in regular wines, simply due to the fact that they are harvested earlier.
Yeast and sugar are then added to the wine. When yeast comes into contact with sugar molecules it undergoes a chemical reaction that produces CO2, giving the champagne its fizz, a process that usually takes a few weeks or months. Next, the wine is bottled and slowly rotated to allow the residue yeast and sugar to collect at the neck, known as riddling. The finest champagnes are often allowed to ferment in this manner for more than seven years, but more commonly the process is left for about two years. Finally, an automated method called dégorgement freezes and removes this sediment before sweet wine or sugar is added to the bottle according to the type of champagne required. It’s then corked.
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