How Champagne is Made

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Producing Champagne is a fascinating art, passed down from many generations. From vineyard to table, the process takes years! Learn the laborious and extraordinary steps of making Champagne below.


CHAMPAGNE VINEYARDS

All Champagne begins as grapes growing in vineyards located in the Champagne region of France. There are three main grapes permitted in Champagne: chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier. The cool climate and soil content (regions with limestone, marl, and chalk) in Champagne creates grapes that are deliciously tart, and high in acid. Once the grapes have reached their peak ripeness, growers harvest by hand-picking every grape and transporting them back to the presses. Although the process is extremely laborious, hand-picking ensures that only the highest quality grapes go into each pressing.

How Champagne is Made

How Champagne is Made

How Champagne is Made

 


THE PRESS & PRIMARY FERMENTATION

Immediately after harvest, grapes are de-stemmed and delivered to cuveries for pressing. Many small growers still use traditional wooden presses (pictured below), that gently press grapes into juice that is channeled to tanks underneath. Between each pressing, the grapes are mixed with pitch forks to ensure maximum juice extraction.

After pressing, the grape juice is stored in barrels, concrete tanks, or stainless steel vats for primary fermentation. The juice is tasted at various stages of fermentation to determine future blends and vintages.

How Champagne is Made

How Champagne is Made

 


SECONDARY FERMENTATION

After lots of tasting and blending, the recently fermented wine is often combined with older reserve wine to make a cuvée. Or in exceptional years, the wine will be bottled on its own as a vintage. Once the blend is determined, the wines are bottled with yeast and sugar to start secondary fermenation. The bottles are stopped under a temporary bottle cap that keeps the bubbles inside each bottle. The reaction of the yeast and sugar inside the bottle creates the Champagne bubbles!
How Champagne is Made

How Champagne is Made

 


AGING

The Champagne ages in the bottle under a temporary bottle cap for a minimum of 15 months to be called Champagne, and a minimum of 3 years to be Fat Cork Champagne. Many producers age their cuvées for several years, and some even decades to produce complex and unique wines. The process of aging Champagne on the lees (dead yeast cells) creates more complexity and depth.

How Champagne is Made

How Champagne is Made

 


DISGORGEMENT

After aging is complete, and the bottles are ready to enjoy, the process of riddling begins. Bottles are slowly turned onto their necks so that the lees from the bottom of each bottle settle into the neck. Once stable, the bottles are disgorged, meaning that the lees are removed; the necks of bottles are flash-frozen so that when the bottle cap is removed, only the frozen wine (that contains the lees) is lost. Once the lees have been removed, a small dose of still wine and sugar (the dosage) is added to balance the levels of high acidity. Or, in the case of Brut Nature Champagne, the dosage will be skipped, creating a dry and acidic wine.

How Champagne is Made

 


CORKS & LABELING

Once the Champagne is complete, corks are inserted into the bottles then covered with wire cages and foil. Finally, the front labels and the Fat Cork back labels are applied by hand.

How Champagne is Made How Champagne is Made

How Champagne is Made

How Champagne is Made

 


VOILÁ! 

The process of making Champagne is complete! Fat Cork Champagne is then loaded into cases and shipped to the United States in temperature controlled containers. Once the cases reach our Seattle warehouse, they are unloaded by hand, and stored in our cool, underground Champagne cave. There the bottles await to be sent to celebrations across the U.S.!

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The Fourth Generation of Magnums have Arrived!

The Fourth Generation of Magnums have Arrived!

 

After a long (but temperature controlled) pilgrimage from the caves of France, Fat Cork’s fourth generation of Magnums have arrive on our shores!

Big, bubbly, and delicious, these Champagnes will make a statement. Each bottle is handled individually throughout production (from bottling to disgorgement). And, with less than 200 magnums of each cuvée produced every year, these big bottles are rare!

Welcome our large format friends to your holiday celebrations! Perfect for a party of 6-8, exceptional for a party of 4, and sublime for a party of 2, a magnums contains 16 glasses of Champagne.

The Fourth Generation of Magnums have Arrived!

Meet our Grower: Hervieux-Dumez

 

Meet our grower, Champagne Hervieux-Dumez!

Bruno Dumez is the current vigneron of his family’s vineyards, working alongside his brother and son in the Montagne de Reims region of Champagne. We like to call him a “perfect Frenchman” because he has two passions in life: being a Champenois and an avid bicyclist!

He is honored to be one of 26 members in the elite Special Club of Champagne. Special Club members must grow their own grapes and make their own Champagne that originates from a single harvest. The group meets annually to blind taste several wines and only the very best cuvées are accepted and allowed to be bottled in the iconic special club bottle.

Watch the video above for a quick look at the vineyards and caves of Champagne Hervieux-Dumez!

 

Meet our Grower: Hervieux-Dumez

Meet our Grower: Hervieux-Dumez

Meet our Grower: Hervieux-Dumez

Meet our Grower: Hervieux-Dumez

Meet our Grower: Hervieux-Dumez

Meet our Grower: Jean Baillette-Prudhomme

Meet Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme!

Laureen Baillette is a true star hailing from the Montagne de Reims region. At only 29 years old, Laureen is the vigneronne of Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme. With her mother’s guidance and sister’s help, Jean Baillette-Prudhomme is one of the few vineyards in Champagne managed by three women!

The secret of this Champagne is old vineyards and at least 50% reserve wine used in every cuvée. Laureen follow the traditions of her father, producing all of her Champagne on an old press (that she painted pink!).

Watch the video above for a quick look at Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme’s traditional wood press and extraordinary caves!(from Fat Cork on Vimeo.).

 

Meet our Grower: Jean Baillette-Prudhomme

Meet our Grower: Jean Baillette-Prudhomme

Meet our Grower: Jean Baillette-Prudhomme

Meet our Grower: Jean Baillette-Prudhomme

Meet our Grower: Jean Baillette-Prudhomme

Meet our Grower: Jean Baillette-Prudhomme

Meet our Grower: Perrot-Batteux et Filles

Meet Champagne Perrot-Batteux et Filles!

As the name “et Filles” indicates, this Champagne house was inherited by a daughter. Cynthia Perrot has proudly led and progressed the family operation over the last 10 years.

Coming from the southernmost region of the Côte des Blancs, her soil is composed of pure chalk. This terroir undoubtedly cultivates the freshest and purest Chardonnay in all of Champagne. All of the cuvées in Perrot-Batteux’s collection are clean and bright; they’re delicious in youth or with many years of age and they clearly showcase the greatness of Chardonnay.

Watch the video above for a quick look at harvest with Cynthia and Champagne Perrot-Batteux et Filles (from Fat Cork on Vimeo).

Meet our Grower: Perrot-Batteux et Filles

Meet our Grower: Perrot-Batteux et Filles

Meet our Grower: Perrot-Batteux et Filles

Meet our Grower: Perrot-Batteux et Filles

Meet our Grower: Perrot-Batteux et Filles

Bryan featured in Bellevue Club Reflections

Bryan featured in Bellevue Club Reflections

“This world is crazy, and so is daily life; taking a moment to reflect and celebrate is what makes me most happy.”
- Bryan Maletis, Fat Cork co-founder

Check out Bryan’s full interview in the Bellevue Club Reflections Beauty and Luxury issue! A special thank you to Lauren Hunsberger for the feature.