Centuries-old French winemaking technique maintained through Cassegrain family links – ABC Rural
With family ties to winemaking in France dating back 375 years, one NSW mid north coast wineries still applies a centuries-old technique to sparkling wines similar to how their ancestors made champagne.
John and Eva Cassegrain planted grapes near Port Macquarie in 1980 keeping with the family business, which began in France in 1643.
While Australian winemakers are no longer allowed to call it champagne, their son and now senior winemaker Alex Cassegrain follows the ‘Methode Champenoise’.
“There are basically four different methods of making either a sparkling wine or a champagne-style wine,” Mr Cassegrain said.
“The two distinct differences are basically that it has either been carbonated using Co2 gas or by using yeast to create the Co2 and build up the pressure.
With the 2017 vintage being bottled, Mr Cassegrain watches on as workers carry out the centuries-old method, albeit with modern machinery.
The bottles of sparkling wine are inverted and placed into what is effectively a circular ice bucket approximately one metre in diameter.
After 10 minutes, a plug of ice in the bottles’ neck has captured the yeast.
The bottles are removed by hand and placed on a conveyor belt.
“We think the complexity that wine gets from this process is far more beneficial for us as opposed to carbonation,” Mr Cassegrain said.
The bottles make their way to a cradle where the bottles are at a 45-degree angle.
The cap is popped by machine and the ice plug removed.
Then it’s back on to the conveyor belt where the traditional cork is inserted.
That all-important pressure in the bottle, which is trying to get out, is contained by another process not much different to that of several hundred years ago.
The bottles are then labelled and readied for sale.
The Cassegrains not only make their own sparkling wine but apply the same process to grapes grown by other vineyards.
The word champagne may not be allowed to be used any longer, but the taste of France continues near the Hastings River on the New South Wales mid north coast.