Toast With the Most: The Supply Chain Journey of Champagne

Champagne is the drink of choice for just about every New Year’s event in America. In fact, the tradition of Champagne on New Year’s came about because of a custom popular in the 1800s, particularly in America. This bubbly beverage can also be seen at weddings, on date nights, and even for company events as it’s a perfect celebratory tradition for all. But, how is Champagne truly made, does it have to come from Champagne, France to be authentic, and how does it wind up in stores in America just in time for new Year’s every year?

As part of the new supply chain journey series by Stimulus, we’ve chosen to break down the entire journey of champagne from vineyard to flute in order to show exactly what finesse and time goes into every bottle of this delightful drink. Without further ado, let’s analyze this supply chain process and see what makes Champagne so remarkable below.

Harvest

Although not everyone believes this to be the case, most vineyards wil tell you that if Champagne isn’t made in Champagne, France, it’s not true Champagne. As such, most harvesting is done in this region of France where the soil and temperatures are perfect for grape production and harvesting.

From August to September, the grapes are picked (usually by hand) so that only the best and ripened grapes are contributed to the Champagne. The grapes are then pressed carefully to keep the juice a clear white color.

Fermentation and Assemblage

The first fermentation can now begin in large tanks. This process results in an acidic still wine that has been fermented dry completely. Next, blending must occur between Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, and Chardonnay along with the still wine to form the base of the Champagne. Lastly, another fermentation is completed.

Some wine producers, like Champagne Alfred Gratien in Epernay, choose for fermentation in a barrel, a technique that is more difficult to master. This is where a lot of the bubbles form in the Champagne, and there are plenty. In fact, the loud pop of a Champagne cork is due to 90 pounds per square inch pressure inside the bottle. Furthermore, a bottle of Champagne has around 49 million bubbles.

Aging and Riddling

The Champagne ages in a cool cellar for several years. The best and most expensive Champagne is aged for five years or more. During this aging period, the yeast cells split open and spill into the solution to give a toasty and yeast enriched flavor. After the aging process is completed, the dead yeast cells are removed through a process known as riddling.

Disgorging and Dosage

The disgorgement is the final step in the production of Champagne. The Champagne bottle is kept upside down while the neck is frozen in an ice-salt bath. This procedure results in the formation of a plug of frozen wine containing the dead yeast cells. Lastly, a mixture of white wine, brandy, and sugar is added to adjust the sweetness level of the wine and to decide what kind of Champagne the bottle will be.

This mixture differs for each Champagne House and is a well-kept secret. However, the sweeter Champagne options have more sugar while the dryer ones rely more on the white wine and brandy.

Corking and Quality Control

At last, the bottle is corked and the cork is wired down to secure the high internal pressure of the carbon dioxide in the Champagne. From there, the bottles are checked for quality control so no bottle is sent off without proper corking and contents.

After all, no one wants a Champagne bottle either popping on its own or not being contained enough to keep the carbon dioxide in the bottle. Even more strange is the fact that this pressure is highly dangerous likewise. Believe it or not, 24 people perish annually from being hit by champagne corks, usually in the face at weddings!

Auction and Export

The Champagne is then sold to buyers and exported from the manufacturers to suppliers and buyers globally. When exported, champagne is shipped in large crates and securely packed so as to not break in transit.

Supply and Demand

With the champagne now in the warehouses of suppliers, retailers, businesses, and consumers can all purchase the Champagne on its final step in the supply chain journey.

Cheers to a New Year!

As we all make our New Year’s Resolutions, countdown to midnight, and toast to a new year, this long process is finally complete and the bubbly drink is lifted to the sky as a last hoorah to the year that’s passed!

Stay tuned for more supply chain journeys to come, and feel free to watch the ‘How It’s Made: Champagne’ episode below to see some more of this journey in action:

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Stimulus, Inc.

Stimulus, a relationship intelligence software that helps companies build more valuable vendor and supplier relationships.