English Sparkling Wine is made in exactly the same way as Champagne. You might say that the English wine industry has copied Champagne, but actually it was the English who invented the Champagne method, centuries ago!
So, what is this method? Well, you start off by making a “normal”, still wine, from the pressed juice of grapes. Next, you transfer this wine into extra thick glass bottles. However, you leave a little bit of room into which you add some yeast and sugar, before putting a crown cap on the bottle.
What happens next is where the magic is! The yeast eats the sugar and turns it into alcohol and CO2 (carbon dioxide). However, because you have put a cap on the bottle, the CO2 has nowhere to escape to. Instead, it dissolves into the wine.
Eventually, all this yeast will die off when it has eaten up all the sugar. As you know, your English Sparkling Wine bottle doesn’t have a layer of dead yeast (known as “lees”) at the bottom of it. So how do they get it out without all the bubbles escaping?
The answer is ingenious. Over a period of a few days (it used to be weeks when it was done by hand), you slowly tilt and tip the bottle a bit more each day until it is upside down and the lees have slid down to the neck of the bottle. If you do it too rapidly, then the lees will float up into the wine and make it cloudy and impossible to get out.
Finishing English Sparkling Wine
Then, you plunge the neck of the bottle into brine that has been chilled to well below the freezing point of water. (Brine’s freezing point is much lower). The liquid in the neck of the bottle freezes, capturing the lees in an ice capsule. Next, you turn the bottle back over and pop off the crown cap. The pressure of the bubbles in the English Sparkling Wine ejects the ice capsule. As fast the machines can manage, a dose of extra wine is squirted into the bottle to make sure it is full, and the classic “mushroom” cork and wire cage is added, before too much liquid can escape.
It may be complicated, but when you taste the quality of an English Sparkling Wine, you can see why it is worth it! Explore our unparalleled range here.
Find out more about the subject at GreatBritishWine.com.