Exploring The Traditional Method

Making quality sparkling wine demands expertise, technical knowledge, and experience. It also calls on winemakers to see into the future and understand how a wine will taste years from the moment the grapes are harvested.

Here’s a breakdown of the method we use to make sparkling wine at CHANDON, known as the traditional method or Méthode Traditionnelle.



One of the challenges of making sparkling wine is creating a white wine (or a blush-colored wine like a rosé) from grapes with red skin. The goal is to extract the clear juice inside without disturbing the pigment in the skin.

Unlike still winemakers — who use a stemmer-crusher that shreds and crushes the grapes — sparkling winemakers use a press that coaxes the juice out of the grapes. This process minimizes the contact the juice has with the skins as it is extracted to maintain the desired color.

First Fermentation

First Fermentation

The juice from the press is then clarified before fermentation. Once the juice is clarified we add a special strain of active dry yeast to this juice for the fermentation to start.

The first fermentation takes place quickly and is complete in 7 to 10 days. During this time, the yeast feeds on the sugar in the pressed juice and converts it into alcohol and carbon dioxide. At the end of the fermentation, all the sugar has been converted, and we now have a “base wine.”

Blending (Assemblage)

After fermentation, the wine is filtered to remove any remaining solids, and blending can begin. Wines that have been kept separate by grape variety and vineyard are tasted and blended with reserve wines from other years to create a cuvée. A new cuvée can contain as many as 80 different lots.

Blending is the true art of sparkling winemaking. It relies on the winemaker’s ability to blend the old and the new, the fruit of one vineyard with another, and to balance one variety’s characteristics with another. The winemaker also must consider how the different wines will marry and develop during aging but also what they will look like post-secondary fermentation with bubbles in them.

Once the cuvée is assembled, it is cold-stabilized to make sure tartaric crystals won’t form in the bottle when chilling the bottle in the fridge. If crystals were to be present in the bottle, the wine would gust upon opening. Getting the wine cold stable is an important step for sparkling winemaking.

Bottling (Tirage)

The cuvée (or blend) is now ready for tirage, which means to “draw from” the tank into the bottle. The cuvée is placed in a tirage tank for the process.

An actively fermenting yeast is added again, and a very precise amount of sugar is added to the wine. This sugar must be added because all the natural sugar in the grapes was converted to alcohol during the initial fermentation.

As the bottles are filled, a small plastic plug (called a bidule) is inserted into the top of each, forming a tight seal. A crown cap goes over the bidule, and the bottles are placed on their sides, ready for the second fermentation.


Second Fermentation

Second Fermentation

The second fermentation takes about 30 days at cellar temperature (55 degrees Fahrenheit). The process is slowed by the presence of alcohol, cooler temperature, and increasing pressure.

As before, the yeast feeds on the sugar and converts it into alcohol and carbon dioxide. In second fermentation, the carbon dioxide is trapped in the bottle and dissolved into the wine, creating a sparkling wine.

Yeast Aging (En Tirage)

The young sparkling wine is left to age and develop undisturbed for at least a year and a half. Early in the aging process, the spent yeast cells begin to break down. This process produces many changes in the sparkling wine.

Gradually the wine changes and evolves, creating complexity and a distinctive bouquet as it ages. When the winemaker decides it has developed to their satisfaction, they declare it is ready for the next step in the process.



The sparkling wine is effectively finished at this stage, but dead yeast cells and sediment still need to be removed from a well-aged sparkling wine — while maintaining its sparkle. Riddling is simply a practical and efficient way to do this. 

The riddling process works the sediment that settles at the bottom into the bottle’s neck. The bottles are carefully turned many times, changing the angle of the bottle slightly every day to be closer to standing on its point.

The sediment slowly spirals downward into the neck of the bottle. The end result is a perfectly clear bottle of sparkling wine.

Freezing Bath (Dépointage)

After riddling, the bottles are carefully taken off the riddling racks neck-down, with all the sediment settled into the neck. The bottles are placed (still neck-down) into a brine bath at -26 degrees Celsius.

Within 15 minutes, the neck of each bottle is frozen to a depth of about an inch, trapping all the unwanted sediment in the ice.


This sediment — also known as lees — is removed by disgorging. As soon as the crown cap on the bottle is loosened, the bidule is forcefully ejected by the pressure of carbon dioxide, taking with it the ice plug and trapped sediment.


The sparkling wine is then finished with a very dry brut dosage — a syrup of cane sugar and wine.

Cork & Wire Hood

Cork & Wire Hood

After dosage, a cork is quickly inserted and wired down to prevent it from escaping. The contents are shaken to disperse the dosage evenly throughout the wine.

The finished sparkling wine is then returned to an aging cellar to rest for a few months, allowing the dosage to marry with the wine. The wine continues to develop complexity and bouquet during these months after disgorging.

Then, and only then, is the sparkling wine ready to be released and enjoyed.

Discover Our Method For Yourself

Discover Our Method For Yourself

To try the results of our expert winemakers, explore our collections. From our signature sparkling wines to award-winning reserve cuvées, we’re sure you’ll find a new favorite. Cheers.