Every bottle is the product of a time-honoured and technical complex process that requires care and expertise. Sparkling wine and cider made in this way can be enjoyed happily for five to ten years after it is made, and will often improve in that time as the flavours will slowly change in the bottle. The perception of acidity will soften and new flavours will develop from the changing qualities of the naturally live fruits.
We carefully assess the quality of the juice as it comes in and we’ll treat each individual variety differently based on taste, sugar and acidity analysis, to help us decide what yeast to use, and to ensure balance before we start the fermentation process. At this stage, we might blend different varieties to create our signature dry, refreshing taste.
We use champagne-style yeasts for the primary fermentation, only adding yeast nutrient to help maintain the aromas and develop the flavours nicely. Usually primary fermentation is a closely-monitored two-three week process, tasting regularly to identify any faults and ensure quality. Making adjustments only if required.
Once primary fermentation is finished, it is left to settle: this process is important to clarify the juice. We then have the option of mixing the ferment to develop the flavour and phenolics from the lees and the yeasts, harnessing additional flavours from leaving the juice with the lees for up to twelve months. The most important thing at this stage is to taste, assess and be reactive to the unique qualities of the fruit – no product is produced by rote because the process is never the same twice.
Barrel & Bottle
At the end of fermentation when things have settled out, we might put the product into oak barrels (depending on its unique character), as barrel-ageing can add an extra component to the final blend, encouraging the product to microoxygenate through the minute holes within the barrels. This can break the flavour compounds from the other molecules in the liquid, releasing the aromas. This controlled microoxygenation can add another layer of complexity, resulting in flavours that are developed and multi-layered. The next stage in the process is filtration. To make a traditional method sparkling wine or cider, you need a product with good clarity. This process can help clean and sharpen the flavours, allowing for a brighter and clearer final product.
Bottling is the first stage in another long ageing process. We add more champagne yeast and nutrient, as well as the sugar needed to prime the fermentation and then we add a clarifier which will aid the riddling process and help the yeast fall into the neck of the bottle efficiently during riddling. The choice of yeast at this point is key; it is the yeast that forms the final flavour. As it creates fizz, the dying yeast cells add the classic champagne-style profile (a process called autolysis) – that biscuity, bready character that one expects from a premium sparkling wine.
The next process is time. This is a key part of the production and all our ciders and wines are aged for a minimum of six months. The time spent ageing in bottle is the key flavour-enhancing part of the process. At this stage it is crucial to taste regularly and understand the development of the flavour to ensure consistency and quality – it is important to be reactive to the unique, natural characteristics of the fruit.
Riddling & disgorging
Once we’re happy with the flavour of the lees-ageing, the product now needs to be riddled, a process that is as old as time, with a method which has been passed down by champagne makers for generations, using a pupitre. This is a manual process which is carefully completed by hand, turning each bottle ninety to 180 degrees every few days to move the yeast lees down the bottle into the neck. This can take anywhere between six and twelve weeks, and, as with all of our methods, requires careful attention paid to each individual bottle.
Once the yeast is settled into the neck of the bottle, the final process of disgorging begins – the part of the process where the yeast is removed by freezing the neck of the bottle, bringing the temperature down to -22 degrees. This creates an ice plug in the neck of the bottle to effectively remove the yeast without losing pressure and sparkle in the wine/cider. The cork is added to the bottle and a wire cage is added to regulate the pressure on the cork.
At this point, many winemakers also add sugar, depending on the particular cider or wine. This is the final point at which sweetness is adjusted. Most of our wine and cider does not have any doseage, to retain its signature dry profile. Any doesage that the product does undergo is always minimal in order to preserve the quintessential dry character of the English fruit.
After all this technical care and hard work, finally the product is labelled and enjoyed. Each variety we produce retains a signature flavour profile produced by different variations in time spent ageing. Take a look at our product descriptions page to find out more about each of our varieties.