Use of Barrels

Since the 1960’s the vast majority of Champagne has been produced without any use of oak. Most Champagne begins its life in stainless steel, where the juice is fermented, becoming a still wine. Stainless steel allows for easy temperature control and is much easier from a hygiene perspective than managing oak.

After the initial ferment in stainless steel, the wines undergo tirage, being mixed with an active yeast culture and sugar, which creates the ‘sparkling’ fermentation inside the bottle. After 14 months in bottle on lees (the dead yeast cells) the lovely biscuity, nutty toast characters we love begin to emerge.

That said the last 20 years has seen a slow return to the use of oak for about 100 producers, some simply ageing some of their reserve wines in oak, others maturing entire wines for a period in oak before tirage. Some use oak because it allows a gentle oxygenation of the wine, producing flavour and texture development, others looking to oak for adding a gentle suggestion of spice to their wines.