Wine Types & Varietals
Making Sparkling Wine
Sparkling wine (or Champagne, if it comes from the official Champagne region of France) begins with grape selection. The grapes are typically harvested in early maturity so they contain lower levels of sugar and higher levels of acidity—a combination that gives any wine more crispness and allows for more versatility when pairing with foods.
What is Méthode Champenoise?
Biltmore’s sparkling wines are crafted in méthode champenoise, which is the traditional French method from that country’s Champagne region. This special process allows bubbles to be produced naturally in each bottle via a second fermentation or prise de mousse.
Unlike other methods, which create larger bubbles that dissipate quickly, méthode champenoise produces tiny, long-lasting effervescent bubbles that are the hallmark of quality and craftsmanship.
First and Second Fermentation
Once first fermentation occurs and the base wine is created, our winemaker adds liqueur de tirage, a unique blend of sugar and yeast, to the cuvée or base wine to begin the second fermentation.
The wine is bottled and the bottles are then crowned rather than corked, using covers that look like beer bottle caps, then bottles are laid horizontally to begin the secondary fermentation and aging process.
After aging from 12–24 months, the riddling (or remuage) process begins. The bottles are subjected to being twisted, turned, and tilted on a riddling rack. This used to be done by hand over the course of several weeks, but most wineries now use a gyropalette or automatic riddling machine. Either way, this vital process forces leftover yeast from the tirage into the necks of the bottles.
When all of the excess yeast has settled into the necks of the bottles, the wine is now ready for disgorgement, or dégorgement. To remove the sediment that has settled, the neck of the bottle is frozen in a brine solution, the temporary cap is removed, and the sparkling bubbles that have formed push out the sediment, allowing the wine to be free of excess yeast.
Wine lost during disgorgement is replaced in the final stage or dosage. Our winemaker adds a cuvée solution, or liqueur d’expédition. This unique blend helps to balance the wine’s acidity and to achieve the desired style, from bone dry to lightly sweet.
After finished bottles of sparkling wine return to the bottling room to have their corks, cork cages, and labels added, you can purchase them in estate shops or online. Enjoy our exquisite Biltmore sparkling wines, from the first delicious sip to the last bright bubble!
All wines should be stored in a cool, dark place. If you don’t have a dedicated space for storage, consider a kitchen cabinet (away from the stove and not above the refrigerator!) or a guest room closet to minimize light and vibration. Keep the bottle tilted downward toward the cork, if possible.
White and Rosé Wines
- Serve chilled around 45–50 degrees. Refrigerators are colder than the ideal temperature, so plan to take white and rosé wines out about 20 minutes before serving.
- Choose glasses with a longer stem so the warmth of your hand doesn’t come in contact with the wine.
- Many white wines don’t age as well as red wines, so drink them now rather than allowing them to mature for too long.
- Serve slightly chilled around 55–65 degrees. Consider putting red wines in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes before serving.
- Choose glasses with a wider bowl that allows the wine to aerate before you drink it. Red wines may also benefit from being decanted before being served.
- Red wines typically age more smoothly than white wines due to the presence of tannins. Allow bottles to age for six months to a year and see if the flavor has changed perceptibly.
- Serve chilled at 33° to 40° degrees.
- When opening a bottle of sparkling wine, hold it at a 45-degree angle. Loosen the cage and hold the cork. Gently twist the cork until it pops.
- To store an open bottle of bubbly, use a special bottle topper. These metal caps with a rubber seal keep the bubbles fresh for the next time you want a glass.
Chardonnay is the world’s most popular grape, and it happens to be a favorite here at Biltmore as well. From its impressive clusters of green-skinned fruit to its compatibility with a wide range of climates, Chardonnay is a definite star of the wine world.
Classic Varietal Expression
When you think of Chardonnay, you most likely think of a buttery, toasty white with notes of vanilla. That’s because Chardonnay readily absorbs flavors during oak aging, maturing into a full-bodied wine with a rich, creamy taste. When put through malolactic fermentation, additional buttery notes develop, creating an even fuller, more rounded mouth feel.
Unoaked Chardonnays taste quite different than the traditional oaked varieties, offering a fresher profile with more tropical, fruit-forward flavors.
The unoaked trend is gaining in popularity, allowing wine drinkers to experience the true varietal characteristics of the Chardonnay grape rather than the heavier, creamier style of the classic aged version.
Chardonnay Sur Lie
Falling somewhere between these two options, you’ll find Chardonnay sur lie, which is produced through careful aging on the wine’s sediments or “lees.” A small percentage has light oak contact as well. It’s not as rich and buttery as traditional oak-aged Chardonnay, but offers more body and complex flavors than the unoaked variety.
Don’t forget about the bubbles! Sparkling wines are often blended from several varietals (including Chardonnay), with the Blanc de Blancs (“white from whites”) category reserved for those made from 100% Chardonnay grapes. This style tends to be lighter and more refreshing than traditional sparkling wines.
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