After eight years of toil, in both the Vineyard and the Winery we are now just months away from releasing our first Sussex Sparkling wines. This week we passed a major milestone as we ‘disgorged’ the first wines to be released. The act of removing the yeast and finally putting a cork in the bottle means that all we need to do now is label the bottles and they’ll be ready to go.
The sense of excitement in the Winery on Wednesday was palpable. Most of the vineyard team stepped in to help out with the disgorging process and despite a minor mishap it went relatively smoothly.
Disgorging is the final act required to prepare a bottle of ‘Traditional Method’ sparkling wine before it’s released.
When we bottled these wines from 2014 and 15 we added a small amount of yeast and sugar to the base wine, to allow a secondary fermentation to take place inside the bottle. That’s when all the magic happens – the yeast turns the sugar into a little bit more alcohol and the by-product of the fermentation is CO2, putting bubbles into the wine. The yeast imparts wonderful autolytic flavours over time, as the wine sits on the yeast ‘lees’. This extended period of time in the bottle creates great sparkling wine.
Now three years later we need to remove the yeast and we did that by riddling the bottles – turning them from horizontal to vertical over a period of a week to encourage the yeast into the neck of the bottle. This used to be done by hand in dark cellars, now it’s down by machines called ‘gyro-pallets’ (shown above).
Disgorgment – once the yeast is in the neck of the bottle we can then remove it by freezing the top inch of the neck of the bottle. Then we open the cap and the pressure pushes out the plug of frozen yeast. Then we put a cork in the bottle and a cage on top to hold the cork in.
At the same time we add a little sugar, the ‘dosage‘, that helps round off the wine, which at this stage is bone dry. We’ve added very little sugar… more on that later. So they are still very dry ‘Brut’ wines and full of great fruit flavours.
Mrs D was certainly very happy…
The bottles will be labelled in late March, ready for a launch in late April and release in May/June.