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Sparkling Wine   
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 Base Wine or Cuvée

  1. Initial brix reading should be 17.5 to 19 brix or %.

  2. Initial pH 2.85 to 3.00

  3. Initial TA .9 to 1.1

  4. Juice should have been lightly pressed.

  5. Sulfite to the usual for primary fermentation, 40-50 ppm. 

  6. Initial yeast for primary fermentation should be capable of fermenting very dry.  If you start with a EC-1118 or a KV-1116, which have a killer factor,  you will need to use the same yeast for the secondary fermentation to produce the carbonation in the bottle.  Pasteur Champagne is not recommended for champagne due to a fluffy lees. 

  7. Finished base wine residual sugar should be 0.  That is a -2 on your +5-5 hydrometer or a 0 residual sugar checked with a Clinitest kit.

  8. Finished wine SO2 should be around 20-30 ppm.  Check with a Titret test and adjust if necessary.  The sulfite level is kept low to facilitate the secondary fermentation.

  9. Cold stabilize, fine, oak, filter, if needed or desired.

  10. Rosé is usually made by adding a DRY red wine during the bottling stage.

Secondary fermentation:  Tirage: preparation of starter and Bottling

  1. Two days before starting the secondary fermentation, make up 1/2  gallon of a  yeast starter by mixing 1/2 gram or a pinch of DAP (diammonium phosphate) and 10 grams of sugar (maybe a heaping teaspoon), a quart of distilled water and 1 quart of the base wine, and a full packet of yeast that has been re-hydrated by directions given on the yeast package.  See caution in #6 above.  You must have 1/2 gallon of starter for each 5 gallons of wine to be "primed".

  2. Transfer your base wine to a food grade open container.

  3. Add cane sugar for 2 atmospheres pressure to the base wine at the rate of 4 grams per liter for 1 atmosphere pressure.  This sugar should be dissolved in some of the wine (warmed) to aid in mixing.
    (4 quarts = 1 gallon = 3785.4 ml = 3.7854 Liters)  Five (5) gallons is 18.9271 Liters.  4 grams/L of sugar would be 75.7 grams of cane sugar per atmosphere.  Two atmosphere would be 151.4 grams.  One (1) ounce avoirdupois = 28.3495 grams.  So 2 atmosphere would be 5.34 ounces of cane sugar for 5 gallons. 
        Amateurs using used bottles should not exceed 2 atmosphere pressure.  Commercial wines and some instructions recommend up to 5 atmospheres.  DO NOT exceed 2, please.  Bottles do fatigue. 

  4. Add the actively fermenting starter at the rate of 1/2 gallon per 5 gallon base wine. 

  5. Stir well and continue to stir frequently while bottling. 

  6. Fill clean champagne bottles to within 1 inch from the top.

  7. Place a bidule, which is a cup-shaped plastic insert, and cap with a crown cap. 

Secondary fermentation: The fermentation

  1. Mark the side of each bottle with masking tape.  Lay the bottles down horizontally with the mark up.  The bottles are kept flat to maintain maximum contact between the sediment (yeast) and the wine. 

  2. Shake each bottle daily for the first couple of days to help mix the yeast with the wine.  Place back in horizontal position with the mark up. 

  3. Temperature should be as constant as possible between 55-60o F and not over
    65o F.

  4. This in-bottle fermentation-process generally can take from three to six months.

  5. The slower and more consistent the fermentation, the finer the bubbles.

Riddling  Once the aging of the wine is finished, the goal is to make the deposit slide into the neck of the bottle.

  1. Wearing safety glasses and leather gloves and apron, carefully shake each bottle vigorously to loosen the sediment.

  2. Place the bottles neck down in a rack or a case.  A commercial operation will gradually change the bottle position from horizontal to 30 degrees, to 45 degrees, and so on.  An amateur is hampered by equipment. 

  3. Each day for 4-5 weeks, lift each bottle and give it a sharp twist, put it back in place. 

  4. You can take it for a jeep ride, cased, upside down if the temperature can be maintained at 30-50 degrees F. 

  5. You could use a riddling rack, if you can find one or make one.  If you make one, keep it small as you probably won't be doing more that a couple of cases (5 gallons) of sparkling at a time. 

  6. If you have a riddling rack, position the bottles at 30 degrees to horizontal.

  7. Each day, give each bottle a sharp twist 90 degrees in one direction, followed by another sharp twist 45 degrees in the opposite direction. 

  8. When the marker on the bottle (tape or white-out) shows that you have gone a full 360 degrees, upright the bottles to 45 degrees to horizontal when you do the next twist.  Keep riddling until the bottles are upright.



Disgorging   Wear safety glasses and leather gloves and apron.

  1. Keeping the bottle neck down, pre-chill in the refrigerator or snow bank. 

  2. Place the bottles, neck down, in a freezer until the plug of ice forms in the neck.
    Test and time this process with 1 bottle first. OR

  3. Place neck down in a freezing brine-ice solution (0 to -4oF), covering about 1-1/2 inch of the neck (and the sediment).  You could use a cracked ice and brine solution (enough salt in the water to float an egg).  

  4. Once a plug of ice has formed you are ready to disgorge. 

  5. You may place the neck in a bit of warm water to loosen the frozen plug AND

  6. Holding the bottle at a 45 degree angle, remove the cap allowing the plug to blow out, upright the bottle after about 15 seconds or less.

    This is a de-capping tool and a church key for the removal of the crown cap.


  1. Next is the "dosage" operation.  This is an addition of a small equal amount of sugar solution (roughly two parts sugar to one part wine) to each disgorged bottle.

  2. You can use brandy for a dosage.  Tom would use a dry brandy and I would probably use a sweet brandy.
    See different sweet types of finished sparking styles and descriptions below.

  3. If you are making your own dosage:  Use cane sugar.    
            Set aside 1 bottle of the sparking wine to use for mixing the dosage and topping up.
            Determine the desired percent of residual 1.5%. 2%, etc.  Convert % to decimal .015  (for 1.5%) X (times) the number of ounces to be treated.
    5 gallons is 640 ounces less 1 bottle (25.34 ounces) 614.66 ounces. This will give you the ounces of sugar needed for .015 or 1.5% residual. 
            .015 (residual) X   614.66 (ounces of wine) = 9.2199 ounces sugar

  4. Mix the determined amount of cane sugar in about the same amount of wine from the bottle of sparkling wine that you set aside.  Gently heat to dissolve the sugar.  Cool.  Divide the syrup into equal portions by dividing the volume by the number of remaining bottles to be treated, in this case 23 bottles.

  5. Use a syringe or measuring spoons, dose each bottle.

  6. Top up each bottle with some of the untreated wine from the bottle set aside to make the dosage out of. 

   * The dose varies in amount depending on the type of "Champagne/Sparkling" desired:

  • Brut - sugar content less than 15 g/l,
  • Extra-Dry - sugar content between 12-20 g/l,
  • Sec - sugar content between 17-35 g/l,
  • Demi-sec - sugar content between 33-50 g/l,
  • Doux - sugar content over 50 g/l.

Sulfur Adjustment

It is important to protect your sparking wine with the addition of sulfur. 

  1. Add 1/4 teaspoon of potassium metabisulfite in 22 ml of distilled water. 
  2. Add1 ml of this solution to each (750 ml) bottle. This will raise the SO2 level to about 50 ppm.  This will be noticeable, but will diminish in a couple of months.
  3. If no sulfur is added, you will notice oxidation within the year.



  1. After the proper dose of dosage is added and the sulfur has been adjusted, and the bottle has been topped up, all that is left to do is to insert a champagne cork, fasten it with a wire hood, add the foil and labels. 

  2. Allow the  wine to rest for a couple of months.  It is said the sugar and the wine have to "marry".

  3. Most sparking wines are meant to be consumed within the year.  Exceptions apply.



References:  Carl Shively, presentation at the AWS Home Winemaking Seminar,  NYSHWC handout from the AWS Home Winemaking Seminar,
Home Winemaking, Step by Step
(J Iverson)


May Your Wines Fall Bright!