Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.
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Dear Dr. Vinny,
I’m interested in making sparkling wine. I have read the “Champagne” method, but that is too difficult for me to attempt. Is there an easier method? Or is there some product you can add to the wine to produce the same effect? In the past, quite by mistake—I suppose because I bottled the wine before complete fermentation was over—I have had some excellent results, but the bubbles lasted only a minute or two.
Home winemaking isn’t my forte, but I can answer some of your questions generally. First off, oh my gosh, you are correct that the méthode traditionnelle is very complex. First you have to ferment the grapes into wine, and then you have to do a second fermentation, but this time inside each and every bottle. That second fermentation creates the carbon dioxide, which you have to keep in the bottle but remove the dead yeast cells, which takes up a lot of different steps.
If you’ve made wine that ended up unintentionally carbonated, it might be that a secondary fermentation occurred in the bottle. As you noted, the result isn’t likely to be as carbonated as a typical sparkling wine. This can be called “spritzy,” and it’s usually considered a flaw, mostly because of a swampy note that often accompanies it.
There’s a more direct way to make a sparkling wine, and that’s simply to pump in carbon dioxide, just like the way soda pop is made. I was at a picnic a few years ago where a winemaker was making sparkling rosé with a tank of carbon dioxide, which was fun to drink. There is a downside—the bubbles from this method tend to be bigger and coarser, and some people complain that they get headaches from sparkling wines made this way.
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