The process of making the Cremant began at 8am. The Pinot Gris juice that, just a day and a half before, we had put into the tank to separate, was ready to be put to work. First, the clear juice was removed and mixed with a small amount of the first fermentation of the wine. The fermented wine and the sweet juice have different densities, mixing a small amount of the first ferment into the sweet juice helps it to mix better when it is added to the full tank of wine.
Next, a small amount of the juice and wine mixture is put in a second container and mixed with Christian’s yeast. The yeast comes straight from Christian’s own wines and is grown and multiplied in a lab. When he gets it back it is like an ultra yeasty and concentrated wine. It is much like the process of making sourdough bread, where you mix a bit of the starter with the fresh flour and water in order to get the whole thing going.
The yeast and juice are then combined and the whole thing is pumped into the tank where the rest of the first fermentation awaits. The entire process is carefully watched over, analyzed, and calculated by Christian, his winemaker Juli, and Pierre, a man who specializes in microbiology and helps winemakers with the wine making process. The exact grams of sugar and yeast required for the perfect secondary fermentation has been determined and thus informs how much of what gets mixed where (lest you think this is a fly by the seat of your pants type of process).
After the juice was added to the first fermentation tanks, it was only a matter of hours until it was time for bottling.
The bottling takes place with the aide of a man and his machine. Alsace has many small winemakers and a bottling machine is an expensive investment that is not viable for many of them. Therefore, there is a local man who owns a bottling machine which he takes from cellar to cellar during bottling time. Our slot was just after lunch. So with our bellies full we casually nestled 7,500* bottles of Cremant into the crates where they will live for the next several years as the yeasts eat the second batch of sugar in exchange for depth of flavor and a whole lot of bubbles.
Interestingly, we bottled two different Cremants: one from some grapes that were grown in the vines above the neighboring town of Kaysersberg, and the others from a different plot (location of which I am unsure). The Kaysersberg Cremant will be the last that Christian produces from the grapes in that plot. He has given the plot to a friend as it was located on a hillside and was hard to get to and take care of with his tractor. His friend has a smaller wine making operation….and a horse. Thus making him a better fit for the vines.
So if you can get your hands on a bottle of this Cremant when it is ready, consider yourself lucky.
*Christian estimated that we did about 7,500 bottles. Given how many people we had working, we each handled roughly 2,000+ bottles.