The following text and photos are contributed by Flying Goat Cellars Ambassador Faye Walker:
The cellar team has been a hub of action behind-the-scenes as we prepare some of your favorite Goat Bubbles sparkling wines for release. These bottles are about to be swept up into the next step of the winemaking process, having gone through a secondary fermentation to create effervescence. Where do those bubbles come from? A mixture of yeast, wine, and sugar is what sets sparkling wine apart from still wine. Yeast feeds on sugar, creating bubbles of carbon dioxide. This process, known as tirage, gets the party started in each bottle of sparkling wine.
These bottles may not look flashy, but our winemaker is about to unleash their sparkling brightness with a powerful force. Over time, a series of complex reactions between yeast and sugar have been producing alcohol and carbon dioxide. In this pressurized atmosphere, the carbon dioxide has dissolved into the wine. Since the CO2 has nowhere to go, it follows that the yeast has also been trapped in the bottle. Care and attention is required in positioning each bottle so that the yeast debris moves down the sides of the bottle and into the neck. When opened, all that pressure from the CO2 ejects the yeast deposit as a frozen plug. This process, known as disgorging, leaves us with a blissfully sediment-free bottle.
A bottle of chilled Goat Bubbles brings ice-cold refreshment on the brink of summer. These bottles have just come through even colder temperatures—as low as -28 degrees Fahrenheit—in the disgorging process. By quickly freezing the neck of each bottle, we solidify any residual sentiment into a frozen pellet that is forced out. We attain this extreme level of cold through a refrigerated mixture of water and propylene glycol (note—that's the food-grade version, not automotive antifreeze). Everything is contained in a mechanical bottle neck freezer to ensure consistency and reliability.
From the glassware of the cellar to your glass in the tasting room, one of our favorite sparkling wines is taking shape. This particular batch is ready for the penultimate step: dosage. The dosage process involves adding a small amount of a sugary liquid to sparkling wine in order to maintain the appropriate balance of acidity. In this case, the dosage is a mixture of wine and sugar that will add complexity and depth to the newest Goat Bubbles Rose—while also putting a smile on our faces!
Being under pressure takes on a much more tortuous meaning for sparkling wine. What keeps the carbonated contents of a bottle from pushing out the cork? If you've opened up any of our Goat Bubbles lately, then you've encountered the answer: a wire cage known as a muselet. Immediately after all the final elements of a fermented sparkling wine have been combined, the bottle is topped with a cork stopper. The muselet, which derives from the French word for muzzle, seals over the cork to hold it in place.
Sources and Further Reading:
The Finest Bubble. "Dosage: What Is It and What Do the Categories Mean?" https://thefinestbubble.com/news-and-reviews/dosage-categories-mean/
Wikipedia. "Muselet." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muselet
MasterClass. "How Wine Disgorgement Works: Disgorgement Dates Explained." https://www.masterclass.com/articles/wine-disgorgement-explained
Union des Maisons de Champagne. "Disgorgement." https://maisons-champagne.com/en/appellation/stages-in-winemaking/preparation-for-shipment-many-years-later/article/disgorgement