A Small Champagne Vocabulary
The decapping tool that keeps things from getting 'messy.'
Possible Relief for New Yorkers
Paris:- Saturday, 16. November 2002:- A bulletin from 'Wired' news last week got me pretty excited until I looked into it a bit and found that is wasn't new 'news' at all, but sort of a follow-up to a story that started last February.
This concerns New York State and its gradual move towards making out-of-state mail orders for wine legal for residents. Some sort of decision is supposed to be made on Friday, 6. December, but Allan has cautioned that 'good things' are often appealed, to stall them off as long as possible.
For Wisconsin, which is a 'legal' state, Allan has learned that he is required to supply a fair amount of paperwork, plus pay a fee. In itself it is not high, but if it had to be paid to each of the fifty states then it would add up to more than small change.
But this technical stuff is neither exciting nor amusing - I mean, not in the only Internet magazine you can drink, in theory, and in moderation of course - and if you are old enough. And happen to live in the right state.
There. I've put in more 'exceptions' than are even normal in France, and France is kind of the world's leader for having exceptions to all of its 'rules.'Some café tables in Paris have grapes on them in case you drink café and forget what grapes look like.
As secretary of the Café Metropole Club in Paris - which you can join for free and for life if you are in town on a Thursday - I am proud to say that the club abolished all of its 'rules' some time ago, and then abolished all of the exceptions to them except for one.
By a voice vote of all members present it was unanimously agreed that the club's only 'exception' would be 'no rules.' This does not apply to the Café Metropole Sparkling Wine of course. It is permitted to be exceptional, which it is.
What This Is About
Until there is a handy 'About' Page for Café Metropole Sparkling Wine, all the past 'news' and lore about the wine can be found with the links below.
The Metropole Paris issue of four weeks ago introduced the new Café Metropole Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine here for almost the first time in world history. It make a brief appearance in a prototype form last December in New York, but in issue 7.43 it 'came out' officially.
This was followed up three weeks ago with some fascinating details about the winery itself, which is so new that it has no true 'lore.' The story continued with a report about a 'Cold Snap' that didn't affect Café Metropole Blanc de Blanc because of the new wood-burning stove in 'The Shed,' as the winery is called by Allan.Tools - above is the antique 'church- key' and the decapping gizmo is below.
Last week's issue contained Allan's account of the wine's first public tasting. From Allan's other notes I added local lore concerning the road-works craters in the street in front of the winery and the sorry state of Moonlights' elderly pickup truck, which does not seem to have a name of its own.
A Champagne Vocabulary
Moonlightô and Café Metropoleô
by Allan Pangborn
Kennewick:- One of my favorite stores in Epernay is a shop that sells equipment to the small Champagne producers in the area. One of the devices is a decapping tool. If you used a normal 'church key' bottle opener when disgorging, the frozen plug would hit you in the wrist and be quite messy. The decapping tool hooks over the top of the bottle and pulls the cap away from the path of the exploding plug.
Here are a number of words and phrases that describe the champagne process that may be new to the readers.
Méthode Champenoise:- The process of carbonating a still wine by the fermentation of sugar with yeast in a sealed bottle. The yeast residue is then expelled from the bottle, a small amount of sugar is added and the bottle is sealed with a cork stopper.
Cuvée;- the blend of still wines (wine without dissolved carbon dioxide) to be carbonated.
Fermentation:- The biological process where yeast converts sugar to ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide.A bidule, shown in a champagne bottle.
Secondary fermentation:- the fermentation in the sealed bottle that makes the wine carbonated. The first fermentation took place when the grapes were harvested and fermented in open tanks or barrels until the sugar in them was consumed.
Tirage:- The bottles undergoing secondary fermentation are said to be in 'tirage.'
Riddling or Remuage:- The process of moving the yeast residue in the tirage bottles to the neck of the bottle. It is now done mostly by machines of various designs. The old method of putting the bottles neck down in perforated boards and turning them several times a week is still practiced by some of the smaller producers.
Disgorging or Dégorgement:- Are the words used for the process of removing the crown cap from the bottle to expel the yeast sediment. If you examine the lip of a champagne bottle you will see it is made to be sealed with a crown cap. This metal cap can be removed by machine to automate the process.
About three inches of the neck of the riddled bottle is immersed in a minus-ten degrees F bath of propylene glycol or salt brine. In about seven minutes the wine and sediment are frozen into a plug. The bottle can now be turned slightly above horizontal and the crown cap lifted. The pressure in the bottle blows out the plug of frozen wine. The bottles are cooled to about 40 degrees F before disgorging to minimize the loss of gas. A dosage is added and the cork inserted half-way and held down with a wirehood.
Bidule:- After the wine is filled into the bottle, a small plastic cup is put in the neck and then the crown cap is crimped over it. This cup is called a 'bidule' and the sediment collects in it during riddling. It keeps the yeast away from the lip of the bottle and allows the plug of sediment to completely expel from the bottle. These were first used in the United States in 1978.More reminders of grapes, photographed in Paris.
Dosage:- A concentrated mixture containing sugar and other liquids such as wine, cognac, water and probably some secret ingredients. The amount of dosage determines the level of sweetness of the finished champagne.
Nature or Brut Nature:- No sugar is added to the finished wine. It has very low residual sugar (RS) - about 0.25 %.
Brut:- The smallest dosage. Normally about 1 % RS.
Extra Dry:- A little more dosage than brut. Typically 1.5% RS.
Sec or Demi-sec:- Even more dosage. up to 4 % RS.
Doux:- The sweetest sparkling wines. Over 5 % RS.
The Russian Czars liked their wine very sweet. A brut dosage is about 10 ml of syrup, but doux could be up to 200 ml! That's a lot of sugar in a 750 ml bottle. Roederer Cristalwas originally created for the Russian court and is very sweet.
Visits to Moonlight
If you wish to visit 'The Shed,' please contact me prior to your visit. The laws controlling alcohol, tobacco and firearms probably account for 3/4ths of all the laws ever written in the USA. The fact that I must be notified before your visit is one of them!
Ordering and Shipping
Cafe Metropoleô Sparkling Wine is available now to the residents of the following States:
California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.
There are two packages available:
Two 750 ml bottles for $52.00
Six 750 ml bottles for $136.00
The price includes packaging, handling and shipping costs. Shipment will be by UPS '3-day Select' and an adult signature is required for delivery.
Overnight or two-day shipment is an option. The shipping charge will be slightly more, so email your order to firstname.lastname@example.org and include your ZIP Code so I can tell you the actual cost.
Terms: Payment by check or money order, to 'Cafe Metropole' is acceptable. It should be mailed to :
Cafe Metropole, 4704 West 12th Avenue, Kennewick, WA 99338
As the winery is just beginning operations, we do not yet have the means to process credit cards. We will be adding this service in the near future. Until then, we will appreciate your use of a check or money order.
Allan Pangborn, Winemaker
Photos © Allan Pangborn
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