Even though I don't make champagne, I do make mead. I've recenlty
bottled a sparkling mead in Champagne bottles and topped with crown caps.
I've heard that by storing upside down and freezing the cap in an ice and
brine solution I can remove a 'plug' of sediment. Can someone outline this
procedure for me and tell me if any special tools are required?
There are two procedures in my winemaking book for this. The first
(methode Champenoise) involves priming and corking the bottles (sounds
like you've already done this). Be careful handing the bottles as
they may be under pressure from this point on. Place them in a
riddling board, which is two boards hinged into an upside down V with
holes along their length to hold the bottles, like this:
The bottles go in the riddling board for 6 weeks, at the beginning of
the period the boards should be angled steeply and as time elapses
open it out so the bottles are tilted more and more toward vertical.
Every day give each bottle a quarter turn with a jolt, the idea is to
shake the sediment down onto the cap of the bottle.
After the 6 weeks, chill the bottles to 30F, then one by one turn them
upside down in a tub of ice and rock salt until the sediment plug is
frozen. Then lay a primary fermenter on its side and point the bottle
into it and open the bottle. The sediment plug should blow out (this
can be messy!). Top off the bottle with some dosage (usually a
mixture of wine conditioner, still wine, sulphites, and sometimes
vodka) and re-cork.
The other procedure (Andovin method) is much simpler but requires a
surplus of champagne bottles. Prime and cork the bottles and let them
sit upright for 2 months to allow them to prime. For the first month,
invert and gently shake the bottles each day to encourage
fermentation. Assuming you have 25 bottles of champagne, get 25 empty
bottles, wash them, put 2 tablespoons of dosage (as above) in each
bottle. Then put all 50 bottles in the freezer. When ice has started
to form on the bottles (1.0 to 1.5 hours), carefully open each full
bottle and transfer the contents to an empty bottle being careful not
to disturb the sediment on the bottom. Cap the bottle and store it
upright. You may have to swirl it gently once the dosage thaws.
"Those that God wants to destroy he first makes mad."