Let's talk traditional method.
Here at Pipers Brook Vineyard, in the beautiful Tamar Valley, we're home to some of the most ideallic conditions in Tasmania, Australia and arguably internationally for sparkling wines. We're all about honouring our incredible fruit in the wines that we craft, so every sparkling wine that we produce will always be bottle fermented. But what does it mean, and how do we do it? We could fill pages with the alluring combination of art and science involved in this method but for the purposes of whetting your appetite let’s try and keep it more sippable.
Bottle fermentation, also known as méthode traditionnelle is famous for creating Champagne.
The process involves two fermentations, one in a tank or barrel to create the base wine and then a secondary fermentation in the bottle, which is what creates fine bubbles and complex flavours, hallmarks of traditional method sparkling wine.
The base wine is fermented, blended and bottled still. A small amount of a careful mix of yeast, wine and sugar is added to kickstart the second fermentation and then the bottles are crown sealed. As the yeast gets to work in converting the sugars to alcohol, C02 is created and trapped in the bottle as naturally occurring fizz. Thus: bottle fermentation.
There’s so much precision at play the many steps involved – whether it be the amount of yeast and sugar, the temperature control and the pressure in the bottle. Each factor, and every choice made by the winemaker plays an important role in determining the finesse and the flavours of the finished wine. But hold on. Is it finished?
Not even close. Oh and by the way, we love lees.
When there's not enough sugar left in the bottle to sustain the yeast, they die off and become sediment known as lees, settling in the bottle. Lees impart flavours,texture and complexity that can’t be replicated by any other means so the time the wine rests on the lees can be anywhere from 18months at the least for us, to years and years. We will never rush this part, and there’s so much romance in imagining just how long the wine has been quietly coming into its own in readiness for you.
The bottles are riddled, so that the sediment can gather in the neck. Eventually and only when the time is right, the bottles are placed upside down in a solution that freezes the neck, and a portion of wine with all the yeast sediment gathered there. The crown seal is removed and the pressure causes the frozen portion to pop out. The bottles are then carefully topped with the dosage to finish the wine. We then cork, wire and label these bottles ready for you here at Pipers Brook Vineyard.
So, why traditional method?
For the final result of course! The wine that sits in your glass with a fine persistent bead, the light and airy mousse and those layered, expressive aromas and flavours that are evoked at the mere pop of a cork and savoured at each sip all speak to the commitment to quality from the producer, and honouring the fruit that makes it all possible.
I know I am.
You can browse our full range of traditional method sparkling wines from Pipers River, and the Tamar Valley right here.