One of the largest producers in the region with over 6.6 million bottles in sparkling wine sales last year alone, their factory is huge, but still rooted in tradition.
Wine destined to become Blanquette méthode Ancestrale undergoes its primary fermentation in concrete tanks, unlike their more modern counterparts Blanquette or Crémant de Limoux which are vinified in...
Stainless Steel Tanks
...stainless steel tanks. As with Champagne, the primary fermentation is relatively short and high temperature with no malolactic fermentation. More flavor development takes place during secondary fermentation in the bottle.
I couldn't help thinking that this huge fermentation warehouse would make a great set for a video game.
Some of the wines destined for the final blend will be aged in oak barrels. When constructing a Crémant or Blanquette, grapes are vinified individually before being blended just prior to secondary fermentation.
Wine making is serious business and at Sieur D'Arques, bottles are carefully analyzed to determine the ratios of various fermentation by-products. The method is constantly being fine-tuned by the winemakers to push their products towards a more desirable end result.
Samples Ready for Screening
Samples are analyzed and tasted on a regular basis.
The yeast added to the wine prior to secondary fermentation is bred in large stainless steel containers.
Once the wine has been bottled along with extra yeast and sugar (a mixture known as liqueur de tirage), it's sealed with a metal crown cap, like a beer bottle, and allowed to ferment horizontally for several weeks, after which it's aged on the lees (dead yeast cells) for a minimum of one year. As the yeast digest the excess sugars, they produce alcohol and carbon dioxide, which dissolves in the wine, producing bubbles. To remove the dead yeast cells, the bottles undergo a process called remuage (riddling in English), in which the bottles are slowly rotated until all of the dead yeast is collected at the stopper.
The lees at the stopped end of a bottle of Crémant.
The spent yeast is traditionally removed by rapidly opening the bottle upside down, allowing just the lees to pop out, then quickly re-capping it. These days, this disgorgement is done by machine. Here a giant robotic arm picks up bottles 100 at a time and dips their tops into a liquid nitrogen solution, creating a frozen ice plug right at the stopper.
Bottles Ready to Disgorge
You can see the block of frozen Crémant at the top of the bottle with the lees trapped inside it.
To The Assembly Line!
After disgorgement, the bottles undergo dosage, the process by which extra wine and sugar is added to the bottle. The amount of sugar added will determine the final sweetness of the wine. Another robot with awesome grippy inflatable fingers picks up and rotates the bottles to get them ready for labeling.
Stir it up!
The sugar and wine added during dosage needs to be well-mixed. This machine rotates the bottles a few times to ensure a thorough homogenization.
A giant corkscrew pushes the bottles along at the Antech factory before the bottles get their final foil covering.
Sponge-like fingers apply labels.
Ready for Boxing
A couple cases-worth of bottles, ready for boxing.
In the Warehouse
Antech's gigantic warehouse has pallets of wine destined for sale all over the globe.