Champagne in its final commercialized version is the result of many weeks, even months, of development. Starting as simple grape clusters on a vine, it gradually transforms into the refined and delicate beverage that is so highly regarded.
From grape clusters to the delicate and fine bubbles, what is the composition and dosage of champagne?
Table of Contents:
- Champagne: The Main Elements of Its Composition
- Composition of Champagne: Grape Clusters
- Composition of Champagne: Alcohols
- Composition of Champagne: Acids
- Composition of Champagne: Carbon Dioxide Gas
- Champagne: What is Dosage?
- Champagne: Different Types of Dosage
- Champagne Dosage: A Very Personal Preference
- Zero Dosage Champagne
Champagne: The Main Elements of Its Composition
The composition of champagne is much more complex than it is secretive. While the starting point for a good champagne is indeed the main grape varieties, the reality is quite different. Many other elements play a role in the composition of this meticulously prepared beverage.
First and foremost, it is true that the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grape varieties are the primary elements of champagne and its composition. However, for some houses, certain minor grape varieties also contribute to the composition of champagne. This is the case with De Lozey champagnes, which reveal the secrets of the grape varieties used by the De Lozey house.
Nevertheless, if one were to briefly summarize the composition of champagne, the main elements would include:
- carbon dioxide gas
Each of these elements, of course, plays a significant role on its own.
Composition of Champagne: Grape Clusters
Obviously, the primary element for making champagne is grapes. From the grape clusters harvested during the grape harvest, the juice obtained after the pressing phase is extracted. Approximately 1.2 kg of grapes is needed to make a bottle of champagne. However, it is essential not to produce grapes carelessly. Preserving the environment is crucial, and that's why Maison De Lozey has committed to obtaining two new certifications.
The juice is composed of about 70 to 80% water, 18 to 20% sugars, and 5 to 10% various substances. You can also find elements of mineral origin such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Grape clusters also contain other natural elements, such as vitamins, including B vitamins.
Composition of Champagne: Alcohols
Compared to regular wine, such as a Burgundy wine, for example, champagne has an alcohol content of 12%. One of the main alcohols in champagne and its composition is ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, to put it another way. It is essential for making champagne, providing it with body, character, and also contributing to its preservation.
Regarding other alcohols, one can find propanol and butanol in very small quantities, as well as methanol at around 50 mg. This is one-fourth of what red wines in general can contain. This alcohol is concentrated in certain grape skins and pectins, the intercellular membranes of the pulp. As for the sweetness of champagne, it is provided by butylene glycol.
Methanol appears in larger quantities in the tails compared to the cuvée. Moreover, it seems to be more present in rosé champagne than in other types of champagne.
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Sensual, our rosé surprises with its color and dazzles with its intense taste. Its assertive character will delight connoisseurs and astonish newcomers.
Composition of Champagne: Acids
In addition to alcohols, the other major elements that contribute to the composition of champagne are organic acids. These acids provide the aroma to champagne. These organic acids will express the total acidity and will be divided into fixed acids and volatile acids.
There are five fixed acids in champagne: malic acid, citric acid, and tartaric acid, which come from the juice, and lactic acid and succinic acid, which come from fermentations. The various stages of champagne production explain this fermentation step very well. Each of these acids leaves its mark on the final product.
Volatile acids, on the other hand, are essential to give stability to the wine. They are mainly composed of acetic acid. However, when they are too present, they can bring acidity to the wine that is part of the composition of champagne. It is important to find the right acidity that provides freshness. Excessive acidity can result in a sour champagne, ultimately unpleasant to the palate.
The total acidity of champagne, almost entirely constituted by fixed acidity, is about 4 to 10 g/1. Volatile acidity does not exceed 0.4 g/l.
Composition of Champagne: Carbon Dioxide Gas
Without carbon dioxide gas, champagne would not be what it is. Arising from a chemical reaction, it is responsible for its effervescence and the small bubbles. During fermentation, it also contributes to the development of flavors in each cuvée.
The major role of carbon dioxide gas produced by yeast introduced into clear wine is to contribute to foam formation. The amount of foam depends on the balance with the wine and high pressure. During the second fermentation, the pressure can reach 5.5 to 6 bars.
When a bottle is uncorked, and the pressure is 5 bars, the champagne contains a solution that holds 5 times its volume of carbon dioxide gas. This is when it escapes. It attaches to the tiny imperfections on the bottle's surface in the form of microbubbles. These bubbles grow as they feed on the gas, eventually becoming too heavy. As a result, they rise to the surface. This is what forms the bubbles. You can find more detailed information in our article "Why Does Champagne Sparkle?"
It is important to pay attention to the temperature, as it greatly affects carbon dioxide gas. When the temperature is high, it escapes more quickly. Conversely, when immersed in an ice bucket, the bottle tends to retain its gas. Consuming champagne at a cool temperature is not just a matter of taste; it is also a necessity.
The formation of bubbles produced by carbon dioxide gas can only occur in the presence of micro impurities. Without them, CO2 would find nothing to cling to, and champagne would turn into a regular wine.
Champagne: What Is Dosage?
After resting in the cellar for several months, champagne is ready for the final stage of its production: dosage. The transition from a horizontal to vertical position allowed the sediments to rise into the neck, and the disgorgement step was carried out. This step, aimed at purifying the content, results in a slight loss of wine. Therefore, it is necessary to replace it with what is called dosage liqueur or expedition liqueur. This is the dosage step.
Dosage is an important step that also requires precision. This is the moment to add the right amount of dosage liqueur that will go into the composition of champagne. This liqueur is made from a reserve wine from previous harvests and a blend of sugar. It is a closely guarded secret by champagne houses that allows them to make the composition of champagne unique.
But beware, expedition liqueur is not added randomly. Indeed, it is an integral part of champagne production. From the blending phase, the Cellar Master thinks about his dosage liqueur. The amount of sugar it contains will give its characteristic to champagne.
This dosage step will be crucial in determining the nature of champagne. Indeed, the dosage will determine the amount of sugar in the champagne. With a low dosage comes a low sugar content. It is the sugar dosage that truly defines the nature of champagne and allows its qualities to fully express themselves.
Champagne: Different Types of Dosage
To understand champagne and its composition, it is necessary to consider that there are 7 types of dosage:
- Zero Dosage or Brut Nature: No sugar addition has been made, and there are less than 3 grams of residual sugar per liter.
- Extra Brut: The dosage is between 0 and 6 grams of sugar per liter.
- Brut: Brut champagne contains less than 12 grams of sugar per liter.
- Extra Dry: This champagne contains between 12 and 17 grams.
- Dry: Between 17 and 32 grams of sugar per liter in this champagne.
- Semi-Dry: In this champagne and its composition, there are between 32 and 50 grams of sugar per liter.
- Sweet: Sweet champagne contains more than 50 grams of sugar per liter.
It is important to know this sugar content to appreciate its nature and find the right pairings with dishes. Fortunately, most champagne composition labels contain this information. Since reading them can be complex for newcomers, we explain how to recognize a good champagne.
Knowing the composition of champagne is a real advantage for pairing. Thus, if extra brut champagne pairs wonderfully with seafood, demi-sec enhances the delicate taste of foie gras. For red or stewed meat, choose Blanc de Noirs champagne.
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For lovers of finesse and delicate subtlety. This 100% Chardonnay champagne is impeccably smooth and long-lasting on the palate.
Champagne Dosage: A Very Personal Preference
Champagne dosage is truly a matter of taste. Moreover, it seems to follow trends as well. Thus, when the trend is to prepare cocktails with champagne, the selection becomes more precise.
If during the 1950s, the trend was for demi-sec champagne consumption, today, the trend is toward drier options. Brut champagne or our brut nature champagne La Cuvée du Dimanche are more popular. True champagne connoisseurs tend to prefer zero dosage or very lightly sweetened champagnes. In fact, they are considered more authentic because they are not altered by the addition of sugar during dosage.
So, since the trend is towards using champagne in cocktail making, we have prepared some champagne-based cocktail suggestions for you.
Zero Dosage Champagne: Champagne with Minimal Sugar
Faced with all these champagne varieties, it can sometimes be challenging to navigate. So when the concept of zero dosage champagne comes into play, what should one think? We talk about zero dosage champagne when it contains very little sugar. But what do we mean by "very little sugar"? It all depends on the grams of sugar per liter and the expedition liqueur.
For a champagne to be considered zero dosage, the sugar content must be between 0 and 3 grams of sugar per liter. These low levels mean that the expedition liqueur does not contain added sugar, only wine and residual sugars.
What makes us appreciate zero dosage champagnes? Their power on the palate. Indeed, these champagnes are livelier and more vibrant than others. They reveal the full power of their flavors when served with seafood, for example. This is the case with Extra Brut De Lozey champagne, which we recommend in our presentation with scallops and mango.
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Designed for gastronomy, this original and sophisticated cuvée surprises with its power and delicacy. Incredibly refreshing, this Extra Brut champagne reveals generous flavors.
In conclusion, now that you have a clearer understanding of champagne composition and dosage, it's up to you to decide what you prefer. Are you more of an extra brut or brut, dry or semi-dry champagne enthusiast? The best way to find out would be to taste the different champagnes from our De Lozey house. In any case, to learn more, we invite you to discover our article "Champagne Pairing: The Guide to the Right Dosage."