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Méthode Cap Classique Explained

Cap Classique is the name for any sparkling wine made in South Africa according to the Méthode Traditionnelle, also known as Méthode Champenoise. The name "Champagne" may exclusively be used for sparkling wines made in the Champagne region of France, where Méthode Traditionnelle was conceived.

Méthode Traditionnelle refers to the process whereby a second fermentation to a still wine is induced inside the bottle. This allows for Carbon Dioxide to be produced naturally and trapped inside the wine, waiting to be born into millions of bubbles when the bottle is finally popped.


Discovering the many arts of production behind Méthode Traditionnelle:

Harvesting

Picking of grapes for the production of sparkling wines occurs earlier than for still wines, as we wish to pick the grapes at a higher level of acidity to meet our wishes for classical and expressive bubblies. In our region, this normally occurs in the month of January. The winemaker's decision as to when to pick a particular block of vineyards is a very intricate and important one, as the quality, and the balance between acidity and ripeness of the juices will have a large effect on the types of wines that will be produced.

In our winery, the cooled-down grapes are pressed in a pneumatic press, which ensures a very gradual and gentle increase in pressure, for clean and delicate juices. This delicate pressing also allows for juices coming from black-skinned grapes to remain clear in colour. This process will be used for all of our juices, except a portion of the juices which will be used in our Brut Rose, where the destined pinot noir grapes are left to macerate in a tank for a few days to extract its colour in the juice.

A fractionation principle is used when pressing, whereby the first portion of the pressing of the juice (The cuvée) is separated from the second (The Taille). The cuvée is the purest juice of the grape, producing wines with great finesse, subtle aromas, a refreshing palate and good ageing potential. The taille has a lower acid content but more colour and a higher mineral content, producing wines that are intensely aromatic. Wines produced from both cuvée and taille juices will be used in harmony with each other in our blends to create the desired balance between finesse, acidity and fruit.

Alcohol Fermentation

Once pressed, the juices are transferred to stainless-steel tanks, carefully labelled by origin, pressing faction and varietal. The juices will be left in these tanks for 36 hours, in order to allow for the sediment to settle, ensuring wines with the purest expression of fruit. Once the clean juice has be drawn out, it is ready to start its first, alcoholic fermentation. At this stage, yeast is added to the juice to initiate the fermentation. The yeast will work by consuming most of the sugar in the grapes, excreting carbon dioxide and alcohol in the process. This process will continue for around a fortnight after which time a still wine with 11% alcohol will have been created. At this stage, many winemakers chose to carry out a malolactic fermentation, converting the Malo acids (green apple characteristics) into Lacto acids (creamy characteristics). At Colmant, we choose not to use any malolactic fermentations on any of our wines, keeping in mind our iconic characteristic of fresh and clean acidity.

The Art of Blending

Jean-Philippe often compares the process of making sparkling wine as that of the creation of high-end cuisine, where the chef would carefully select a combination of delicious ingredients and then put them together in a dish to create beautiful harmony and balance between the various qualities of these ingredients. In the making of sparkling wine, our grapes are our ingredients, and the chef is the winemaker. At the time of blending, the grapes will have taken the form of a still wine, both from that year's harvest as well as from reserve wines (for a non-vintage) which have been kept from the previous years, as a means to ensure consistency and deeper complexity. The aim of blending together wines from a variety of grapes, vineyards and vintages is to produce a wine that is greater than the sum of its parts. Blending will result in a more complete whole, a wine that has different dimensions, greater complexity, additional nuances of aroma and flavour. The cellar master who orchestrates the blend must create unique blends which express and perpetuate the particular vision and style of the brand.

The blending process requires an impressive talent for the ability to taste and recognise all flavour components in a wine, and then being able to create the perfect combination of these wines in order to reach a desired balance and characteristic for the final product, in line with the vision and style of the wine maker. It is a highly creative exercise that relies entirely on the winemaker's sensory memory and experience of terroir and tasting. A big part of the challenge is to predict the development of a wine over time, bearing in mind the decisive influence of the second fermentation and the maturation on the lees following blending.

Bottle Fermentation

In French, this part of the process is called 'prise de mousse', which literally means 'capturing the sparkle'. This is the stage at which still wine is transformed into sparkling wine, where the magic of the bubbles is created. The winemaker initiates the effervescence by adding a sweet solution to the still wine inside the bottle, known as the 'liqueur de tirage', along with acclimatised yeast cultures and additives that assist the riddling process. The bottles are then sealed with a crown cap and stacked horizontally in the cellar, where the wine will undergo a second fermentation that continues for 6-8 weeks.

Maturation on the Lees

Deep inside the cellar, protected from the light and kept at a steady temperature of around 13°C, the bottles embark on a peaceful and long journey of maturation- a process which is a major feature in the production of quality sparkling wines. Depending on their ageing potential, the different blends will spend a varying amount of time on the lees. During maturation, the development of tertiary aromas occurs, where the floral fruity notes of young sparkling wines are transformed into the ripper nuttier aromas that are typical of more mature wines. Our Brut Plaisir, which spends the least time on the lees (at least 12 months) reflects the much fruitier aromas of a younger wine whereas our Brut Chardonnay, which matures the longest (at least 45 months), demonstrates the toasty and biscuity aromatic characteristics of wines which are older.

Riddling, Disgorgement & Dosage

As their maturation period comes to an end, the bottles must undergo a riddling process to collect all the deposits left from the second fermentation into the neck of the bottle, so that it can be removed easily and with minimum waste when disgorging. The riddling process involves progressively tilting the bottles neck-down, while being rotated by small increments, clockwise and anti-clockwise. As the angle of the tilt increases, the forces of the gravity drive the sediment into the neck. Once riddling is completed, the bottles are stacked neck-down, ready for disgorgement.

The purpose of disgorgement is to effectively eject the sediment that has collected in the neck of the bottle during riddling. This is done in such a way to minimise loss of wine and pressure. It is also at this stage that a chosen dosage (a mixture of wine and cane sugar) is added to the bottle, which will determine the style of the wine (how dry or sweet it is). At Colmant, all of our blends fall under the 'brut' style (less than 12 grams sugar/litre), except for our 'sec' reserve (12-17 grams/litre). The bottle is then shaken vigorously, so that the dosage liqueur marries perfectly with the wine. Voila! Time for the cork to be inserted and, after a three month resting period, for the bottle to start its journey out of the cellar; having been dressed up in its elegant wear of course.

Colmant Sec Reserve NV
Colmant Brut Plaisir NV
Colmant Brut Reserve NV
Colmant Brut Rosé NV
Colmant Brut Chardonnay NV
Tribaut Brut Origine
Tribaut Blanc de Chardonnay NV
Tribaut Instant Gourmand NV
Tribaut Rosé NV
Tribaut Millesime 2007
Follet-Ramillon Vintage Brut 2008
Tribaut Cuvee Rene NV
Mailly Brut Reserve NV
Mailly Extra Brut NV
Mailly L'Intemporelle 2008
Mailly Les Echansons 2004
Follet-Ramillon Special Brut NV
Champagne Tribaut Brut Origine Half Bottle NV
Champagne Tribaut Brut Origine Magnum NV
Champagne Follet Brut Tradition Magnum NV
Champagne Tribaut Brut Origine Jeroboam NV
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