“I want a Champagne wine and it must be truly SPARKLING!” declared Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
This is also the policy at Moët & Chandon, one of the most famous champagne dynasties, based in Épernay near Reims, the centre of champagne production. Moët & Chandon skillfully combines the age-old tradition of champagne production with the latest technology and a working method which respects the environment. This explains why Moët & Chandon has been using separators from GEA Westfalia Separator Group for decades, both to clarify still wines and in parallel to pre-clarify the must if a particular vintage requires it. In 2008, Moët & Chandon installed an additional GSE 300 series separator to increase its capacity and the flexibility of its working method.
When champagne is produced with the aid of centrifuges, separators can be used at different stages of the process, initially to pre-clarify the must following pressing.
The must from the integrated tanks is fed continuously into the separator. Using a separator to remove the sediments, as opposed to allowing tank sedimentation at this stage, reduces the space required and cuts manual labour and process time. Rapid elimination of suspended sediments immediately after pressing has a positive impact on quality. Once the must has been clarified, a particularly homogeneous fermentation process follows, favouring good development of the wine.
The second field of application for the clarifiers is still wine clarification to separate the yeast after primary fermentation in tanks. The separator GSE 300 allows measurement of the turbidity of the wine in the discharge, and its high degree of clarification efficiency means that fewer filtration additives are required. With traditional bottle fermentation, the desired ageing processes always proceed in a homogeneous and controlled manner. At Moët & Chandon, the centrifuge represents a key multifunctional technology – the separator provides the best quality for greater profitability.
Moët & Chandon was already using two HSA 200 separators from GEA Westfalia Separator Group; to cope with increased capacity, the company installed a new-generation GSE 300 flat-belt clarifier in 2008. Finally, a SB 80 is used to clarify still wines in the red wine vinification process. Nothing now stands in the way of sparkling pleasure.
“Clarifying still wines in separators offers the Great advantage that the wine can be filtered without any problems“, is how the enologist, Jean-Jacques Lasalle (right) explains it.
“With the additional GSE 300 separator we can now process up to 6000 hectolitres in just six hours“, declared Bruno Galand (left), who is
responsible for new products.
At Moët & Chandon, the grape harvest lasts about three weeks. The juices come from a variety of pressing sites in the Épernay region and from cooperatives. After the musts have been clarified – using separators if necessary – primary alcoholic fermentation takes place in fermentation tanks and is followed by malolactic fermentation which converts malic acid into lactic acid.
The wine-making team then prepares the blends. Following an initial tasting, the team defines the preliminary blends on the basis of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay Blanc. Once the still wines have been clarified by the separators, the wine-making team tastes the wine a second time and determines the final blends. The wine is then chilled for 8 days; the tartrate crystals formed are removed in a downstream filtration press. Depending on capacity, the still wine is either poured into tanks or bottled immediately. To promote bubble formation, the liqueur de tirage (a mixture of sugar, yeasts and yeast nutrients) is added at the rate of 24 grammes of sugar to each hectolitre. At this stage, Moët & Chandon also adds its “special house yeast”.
The bottles are stored in the cellar for at least two years to allow secondary alcoholic fermentation to take place in the bottle; as for Millésimé champagne, this is stored for a minimum of eight years. After cellar-ageing, the bottles are riddled (turned) automatically so that the lees settle near the neck of the bottle. Then each of the bottles is opened and “disgorged” (meaning that the sediments are removed). Finally, the bottle is closed for good and labelled. The long champagne maturing process is complete and now nothing stands in the way of sparkling enjoyment.
“When blending the base wines we handle close to 6000 hectolitres a day”, explains New Projects Manager, Bruno Galand. “We had reached our limits with the two HSA machines which can clarify around 330 hectolitres an hour. The additional GSE 300 with the same power will now enable us to handle up to 6000 hectolitres in just six hours, giving staff enough time for preparation and completion work. As we were already so happy with the two HSA machines from GEA Westfalia Separator Group, we naturally decided to buy this manufacturer’s latest model.”
Jean-Jacques Lasalle, wine-maker, explains the decision as follows: “Clarifying still wines with the aid of separators is a huge advantage because it makes the wine easy to filter. We need fewer filtration additives, enabling us to limit the quantity of waste product. This is a crucial argument for environmental protection. If we did not use separators, we would need four to five times the quantity of filtration additives. Separators from GEA Westfalia Separator Group enable us to reduce turbidity levels to 4 – 5 NTU (nephelometric turbidity units). After filtering, the NTU level is between 0.3 and 0.4.” Another advantage of the separators is their flexible use. “Depending on the vintage and the quality of the grapes, which in turn depends on weather conditions, the must can have a turbidity of between 100 and 400 NTU. Below 200 NTU, we use the separators to clarify the must to 80 NTU.”
Moët & Chandon has put its faith in GEA Westfalia Separator Group centrifuges since the 1970s. “All our efforts are based on seeking quality. It is essential to preserve the style and character of Moët & Chandon champagnes, their fullness and fruity bouquet.” It goes without saying that Jean-Jacques Lasalle refuses to reveal the full secret of Moët & Chandon’s famous champagne – which in any case involves the interaction of numerous factors. “Above all, it is critical to have excellent quality grapes from the vineyards of Champagne. For production of the wine itself, minimal oxygenation is essential. The key to success is a considered blend of the fruit and of our house image. On the other hand, we obviously still have a few little secrets which contribute to perfecting the final product”, adds the chief wine-maker of this prestigious brand with a smile. As Mark Twain said:
“Champagne is perhaps the happiest inspiration.”