Our winemaker work in Celles-sur-Ource, from the vine to the flute
The development of a quality wine is delicate and very complex; it starts with the variety choice depending on the terroir and finishes with the elaboration and selling if the bottle. For us winemakers, the champagne making process is a long term engagement over at least five years. Do you want to learn more about the making of our champagnes? Contact the Maison Huguenot-Tassin in Celles-sur-Ource.
Our winemaker job in Celles-sur-Ource
The vine, sustainable plant
The vine can live more than 100 years, but due to productivity, it is often renewed between 40 to 70 years.
That is the reason why an extra care must be given to each operation the winemaker practices on it throughout its life.
The planting of vines
The planting of grafted-welded vines takes place in April and May in order for the plant to have time to down roots deep enough and be able to manage summer’s heat waves. After planting, the vine will have to wait 3 years before being harvest in order for the young plants to have time to fortify and give the grape the necessary nutrients. Indeed, the older the vine is, the deeper it takes roots, the more complex aroma it gives to the grapes, and so to the wine.
The winemaker winter work
When winter is coming, the vine loses its leaves and stocks nutrients for the resumption of its post-winter activity. During this interim period, the winemaker main activity is the trim. It takes place between November and March and consists of cutting the branches of the vine so as to give it the desired crop potential. The least important the harvest is, the more concentrated the grapes will be, therefore we must adapt the trim to the wine type.
After the trim, the remaining boughs are attached to the string in order to distribute the foliage on the trellising plan.
The vine during spring
Vine main threat during this season is the freeze as it can seriously damage the harvest of the year. That is the reason why some winegrowers protect their bourgeons by spraying water that, once frozen, maintain their temperature to a minimum of zero degree.
The winemaker summer work
During this period, vine is really sensible to fungal diseases such as mildew and powdery mildew. These two diseases, if not cared for, can destroy an entire harvest and jeopardize the sustainability of the vine. In order to prevent it, the use of fungicides is essential. They are spread on the vines as mash (water + fungicide) by using a tractor and a spray system.
All along the vegetative growth, the vine is cropped. The branches and leaves are cut at a given height in order to limit the sprig length, and so concentrate the nutrients in grapes. These successive trims allow the removal of diseased and contaminating leaves.
The harvest is the decisive moment of viticulture and has to be done by hand in Champagne as it’s compulsory in this region. Indeed, clusters must be whole when loading the press, a result impossible to have with the harvesting machine. The reason is quite simple: champagne is mainly made from 3 vines, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. Two of them, the Pinot Noir and the Pinot Meunier, are black vines giving white juice. The maceration of the black skins in the juice colors it (it is the principle of red winemaking), however champagne is a white wine. Therefore, we need to avoid maceration in order to keep the juice white, so keep the whole clusters.
Champagne making – Wine, a living product
From press to tank
Once the grapes are in the press, it only remains to extract the juice. To do so, a gentle pressure is exerted on the mass of grapes in order to obtain the highest quality juice. The total quantity of juice is divided into 3 parts: cuvée, cuts and rebèches.
- Cuvée is the best quality juice, sour and sweet. It possesses the best balance and give the finest wines.
- Cuts are a less sour and little coarser juice, but are still used to make wine.
- Rebèches are the end flow juices and are intended to be delivered to a distillery.
Once in the tank, the juice is treated to be protected from oxidation and to keep its aromatic potential. It is then decanted to separate the juice from impurities. Thereafter, the alcoholic fermentation will convert the juice sugar into wine alcohol.
Other operations are often conducted after, such as the malolactic fermentation (transformation of the malic acid into lactic acid), the tartaric stabilization or the cooling process (precipitation of tartaric acid at low temperature) and filtration or other clarifications. All of these operations are not mandatory.
Once stabilized, wines are blended. This operation is essential in the champagne making process as it will determine its taste and flavors. It consist in associating basic wines from different vines and plots to create the most complex champagne.
From tank to bottle
Once these steps are completed, the wine is ready to be put into bottle. A percentage of leaven composed of wine, sugar and fermenting yeast will then be added. This mix will allow a second fermentation inside the bottle called foam catch.
After the secondary fermentation, the dead yeast sink to the bottom of the bottle and during 18 month of raising, they will provide the necessary structure to become wine champagne. After those 18 month, bottles are disgorged to remove the remaining yeast and obtain a perfectly clear wine. A given amount of liquor is added, then the bottle is corked.
From bottle to your glass
After around 3 month of conservation, the bottle is ready to be consumed. We only need to dress it with a cap and affix the label.
From vine to wine, the wine work is a close collaboration between man and nature with the goal to obtain the best of the vine and grape. These are the prerequisites for the development of the best champagnes.
We hope we’ve been able to share with you our knowledges and passion.