Printhie Blog.

September 24th 2010

Champagne, the extremes of methodology

I have come to Champagne to observe and learn about the finer points of producing Champagne during the harvest period. I am interested in discovering the differences and influences of terroir, the characteristics of the fruit at harvest (flavour, texture and analysis) and the approaches taken in the cellars. I had a certain expectation of what I would find, what I would see but I also expected some surprises. And surprises I have had.

Old school, new school

The typical Australian school of thought for the production of sparkling wine is very protectionist – in wine speak “reductive”. That is, at all stages you protect the grapes/juice/wine from any contact with oxygen by means of sulphur dioxide (SO2), using inert gases in tanks, and very careful handling. My first day in a champagne cellar I witnessed the complete opposite. I don’t think you could handle fruit and juice in a more oxidative way – basket pressing, no inert gas, very little SO2, pumping juice with bucket loads of air, open tanks for settling juice. I was astounded. I had to keep reminding myself that this was the cellar of one of the great grower producers, whose wines I greatly admire and cannot perceive any oxidative characteristics in the wines. Baffling. The next morning I was in another producers cellar and it felt much more familiar – enclosed press, inert gas, refrigerated tanks with lids! The wines are no less in quality or character, just different.

Reconciling the extremes

Within two days I had experienced the two extremes of champagne methodology. Between these two extremes there is very conceivable degree of variation and adaption. There is very little uniformity in champagne. The variation in endless. There are thousands of individual plots of land with their own terroir and there are thousands of producers all with their own methodology and style. In my mind I have to reconcile the extremes and come up with a balance that I can justify and work with. Champagne is a fascinating region and the learning curve is steep. But it is these experiences which provide the challenges and the knowledge for a winemaker to return home and make better and more interesting wines.


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Always a pleasure @jeniport - thanks for visiting, hope you enjoyed the Orange region, the wines & lollipops lol :)
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My 1st taste of these elegant wines from Orange. Hope to see @PrinthieWines in the UK soon. The name says it all!
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OMG my 1st pick is 4 Feb. Unheralded!…
3:46pm on Tue 26 January
Just cleaned the press in readiness for #V16 but it is still only January. Noooo!!! Surely vintage is still months away #CoolClimate #Orange
4:40pm on Mon 25 January
No rest for the wicked. Great to see you at the pointy end of the racing. All the best for the season.…
4:37pm on Mon 25 January
Check out my 245.2 km ride on Strava. @WinePeloton…'>……'>…
12:39pm on Sun 24 January
Thx to Colin & Roy for joining #epic cycling. Pics are Roy about to launch up the big climb & 3 of us at Lake Lydell
12:31pm on Sun 24 January
@WinePeloton #epic #cycling was from Orange, over the Blue Mountains, to Penrith on the outskirts of Sydney. Why? Life is short
12:26pm on Sun 24 January

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