Your Sparkling questions answered

While Rob waits patiently for our Pinot Noir to ripen just enough to pick for our Sparkling, let’s take a closer look at some of your questions about one of our most popular and “Trophy-winning” (have I mentioned that before?!) wines.

What’s all the kerfuffle about using the word “Champagne”?

Although sparkling wines are produced around the world, legally the word Champagne is reserved exclusively for sparkling wines from the Champagne region in France and made in accordance with regulations governed by the Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne (CIVC) and protected under a treaty (so, I guess they’re pretty serious about it!).

For champagne to be champagne, the grapes need to be sourced from specific parcels in the Champagne appellation (which is short for a long fancy French term which means “protected designation of origin”) using specific vineyard practices, pressed using regimes unique to the region and made using secondary fermentation of the wine in bottle to create the bubbles (read on for more information on how this is done).

What is involved in making Sparkling using the traditional method?

The traditional method of making Sparkling wine involves a number of steps…

  1. The grapes are pressed and go through a primary fermentation like any other table wine. It is then bottled.
  2. A second fermentation is induced by adding more yeast and sugar (usually in the form of grape juice). A crown seal (like a beer bottle) is added to the bottle and the fermentation occurs in the bottles, which creates the bubbles.
  3. The wine is then left to sit on yeast lees. In Champagne, the minimum amount of time specified by the appellation is 1.5 years. This is also the minimum amount for Rob, but he usually leaves it to mature for much longer than this.
  4. After aging, a process called remuage (or “riddling” in English) is performed either manually or mechanically, to gradually invert the bottle and settle the lees into the neck.
  5. The neck of the bottle is frozen, whereupon the lees freeze to a sold block, and the crown seal is removed. The pressure in the bottle forces the frozen lees out of the bottle. The wine is then topped up with additional wine (le dosage) and quickly corked (or another crown seal added) to maintain the bubbles. The dosage is not only designed to replace the volume lost during the disgorging process, but gives the winemaker a change to adjust the sweetness of the wine. For Rob, the dosage he uses is much drier that most.

Is there any other way to make Sparkling wine?

A large proportion of Australian Sparkling wine is not made using this time consuming and expensive method. There are others ways to make Sparkling wine, including adding a gas under pressure to the wine to add the bubbles… just like how your soda stream works at home. But we don’t recommend using your soda stream to add bubbles to your wine!


Why does Rob use a crown seal instead of a cork?

Well, firstly, he’s terrified someone will take an eye our with a cork! Secondly, with a crown seal there is very little chance that any gas can escape the bottle, meaning you can hang onto a bottle of Somerled Sparkling for years and it will be just as bubbly as it is today. Given the porous nature of cork, it is inevitable that some of those bubbles will disappear over time.

How do you make a Sparkling white wine out of a red grape variety?

If you bite into a red grape, what colour is the flesh usually? Most red grapes have white flesh. In fact, there are very few varieties of red grapes in the world which have red flesh (Alicante is one of them). Actually, the only thing the contributes to the colour of a red wine is its skin.

So, if you press the grapes ever so carefully and remove immediately separate the juice form the skins then you can make a white wine!

Traditionally, Sparkling wine is made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.


Do you have any other Sparkling related questions for us? We’d love to see your questions and thoughts in the comments section below.


How about this weather??

At least the rain is good for the garden… but what about the grapes?

To be perfectly honest, it’s not ideal. Refer back to last week’s post for our discussion on powdery mildew (did I jinx it?!). And tune in next week to find out what exactly what effect this weather will have. In the meantime, send good thoughts to the wine Gods!

Our Sparkling is the best!

Rob accepts the trophy for Best Sparkling in Show 2017 for Somerled Sparkling Pinot Noir
Rob accepts the trophy for Best Sparkling in Show 2017

…but, don’t just take our word for it – our customers think so… oh, and the judging committee of the Adelaide Hills Wine show agree as well! They awarded our 2014 Méthode Traditionelle Pinot Noir the trophy for the best Sparkling in Show of 2017.

We’re currently pouring our way through the very last batch of 2014 at the cellar bar, but don’t panic… Rob is working on more as we speak! It’s the first fruit of vintage to come off the vine and head into the winery, but there are also other vintages in the pipeline. Let’s have a look at where they’re all at. First though, let’s get a few definitions out of the way…

Méthode Traditionelle: one of the ways to produce sparkling which creates the bubbles in the wine through a secondary fermentation in the bottle. Before it becomes Sparkling, the wine is filtered into the bottle… the same bottle that is presented for sale. A second round of yeast is added, along with sugar to start the second fermentation. The bottle is then crown sealed to trap the carbon dioxide (ie. your bubbles) produced. This is the process used for the production of Champagne.

Lees: deposits of dead or residual yeasts from the secondary fermentation

Disgorge: Removing the sediment after secondary fermentation

2015: This vintage is sitting on yeast lees, with the first batch to be disgorged very soon. This is the next batch heading for your glass once the 2014 has sold out, which will only be a few months away – it is being consumed enthusiastically since the win!

2016:  Also on lees, developing those lovely flavours we all love in Rob’s sparkling. It will stay this way until we’ve sold out of the 2015 vintage which is at least another 12 months away. It’s also important to note that Rob disgorges in batches (depends  on volume, but between 2-4 batches). This means that some of the bottles from each vintage will spend longer on lees than others, allowing more time to develop those flavours.

2017: This one has only recently been bottled and is currently going through secondary fermentation in the bottle to create those tiny delicate bubbles we all love so much. Each individual bottle has quite a lot of yeast in it and the fermentation process creates over 5 bars of pressure (that’s a lot!). It will stay this way for a least a couple of years. The next time you enjoy a glass of our Sparkling, make sure you appreciate those bubbles… it’s taken a lot of work to get them there!

2018: Rob visited the vineyard yesterday and has the following to report…

Vines looking good even after the heat of the past week. They look fresh and the leaves are glossy. The nighttime temperatures have been really low since the two or three very hot days over the weekend, which helps. The vines on the block we pick the grapes for the sparkling are “dry grown” and get no irrigation at all (unless they absolutely need it – the grower has a bore).

“Dry grown” grapes are usually smaller, denser and more flavoursome. The practice requires rootstock that will seek the moisture deep in the soil (not just on the surface). Vines must be spaced sufficiently to get all the moisture they can (to decrease competition for water). And the correct soil mix is crucial to prevent moisture from escaping. Grapevines are pretty hardy, but this method requires a lot of intense hands-on work.

Berries are modest in size and are still hard as nails. Almost no sign of veraison (other than what is pictured here), so it looks like it will be another week or so away. The grapes won’t be ripe enough to pick for Sparkling until around 3 weeks after that, so in early March (a little later than average) we will be plucking this bunch from the vine! Literally… the grapes for our Sparkling are hand picked, which means Rob can be fussy about exactly what goes into the press. There is no sign of disease but he has noticed some shrivelled berries (perhaps just physical damage) which can be avoided during the hand-picking process.

Want more?

We have so many more fascinating things to tell you about Sparkling. Keep tuning in for the answers to these questions and many more…

  • What’s all the kerfuffle about using the word Champagne?
  • What is involved in making Sparkling using the traditional method and what other methods can be used?
  • How do you make a Sparkling white wine out of a red grape variety?

What would you like to know? Post your questions below and we’ll answer them in future posts.

Missed last weeks post on what else is happening in the winery? Catch up here.