Saturday, March 29, 2008

Dégorgement à la Volée

It’s a rare pleasure to be able to drink a bottle of champagne disgorged on the spot. This is only possible with bottles that are stored sur pointe: the bottles have already been riddled but not yet disgorged, and so are stored upside down with the sediment collected at the neck. Bottles that are stored sur pointe remain marvelously fresh for a very long time, partly because the lees, which are a natural antioxidant, are still in the bottle, and partly because the wine has never been exposed to the oxidative shock of disgorgement.

Disgorging by hand does require a bit of skill. As you slowly turn the bottle upright, the bubble of air trapped inside rises towards the neck. The idea is to remove the crown cap at the moment when the bubble is in the neck but below the sediment. Too early, and you lose a large volume of wine; too late, and the sediment falls back into the bottle, leaving you with cloudy wine.

Here’s a video of Jean-François Clouet, proprietor of Champagne André Clouet in Bouzy, disgorging a bottle of vintage 1995 for us to drink a couple of nights ago.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

But without the "liqueur de dosage", that bottle of champagne could be extra extra brut, isn't it?

Peter Liem said...

Yes, I suppose you could say that’s as brut as you could possibly get...

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your answer Peter.
Just one more question: Once the trapped bubble of air push out the sediment, how they assure there's still enough gas in the bottle for the final product? Does that means they have to be very quick for the following process?

Peter Liem said...

Champagne has plenty of bubbles to spare. But yes, generally after disgorgement the bottles are filled with the liqueur de dosage and corked immediately afterwards. Of course, in the above video, the process that followed was the putting of the champagne into our mouths....

Anonymous said...

Indeed, you are a lucky man to have that pur jus putting in your mouth. I bet that's sensational.
Cheers Peter !

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