As special drinks for happy occasions, Champagne and sparkling wines are often brought out for celebrations. However, more and more people are popping the cork, not merely for big parties, but perhaps as a treat for themselves or with friends.
Chandon winemaking follows the traditional method used in Champagne, France.
"Bubbly" has gained in popularity, especially in Asia, where dining out with wine as an accompaniment is a big thing.
It is often served first, as an aperitif, or paired with the first course in a meal.
Champagne is the bubbly made according to certain specifications only in the northeastern region of France named Champagne, whereas other sparkling wines come from all over the world. Champagnes and sparkling wines are defined as Extra Brut, Brut, Extra dry, Sec and Demi-sec depending on their sugar levels. They are also categorised as vintage or non-vintage (NV on the label) meaning they either come from a single year or are a blend of several different years. The vintage Champagnes are typically pricier.
Among the most famous names in the business are Moet & Chandon, Dom Perignon, Taittinger, Krug, Perrier-Jouet, Veuve Clicquot, Laurent Perrier, Mumm, Bollinger and Pommery.
Winemaker Glenn Thompson selecting the strongest shoots during the pruning season.
Moet & Chandon has been expanding their wineries outside of France since 1960, establishing Bodegas Chandon in Argentina, followed by Chandon Brazil, Chandon California and Domaine Chandon in Australia.
Chandon sparkling wine available in Thailand comes only from the Australian estate. Since its launch in 2009, it has enjoyed encouraging growth due to the strong trend of wine consumption, especially sparkling wine, which is becoming a lifestyle beverage for Thai consumers.
"Sparkling wine consumption is growing very quickly, and in fact Thailand is one of the fastest growing markets for us, almost tripling in size in the past three years," said Cameron Murphy, business development manager of Moet Hennessy Wine Division.
"Champagne may be considered a 'special occasion' drink, while Chandon can be an everyday luxury as the price _ roughly half of Champagne _ makes it more affordable to open a bottle for a casual gathering of friends or for one to two people. And you still get the quality, as Chandon is made following the same traditional method as Champagne."
Sparkling winemaking following the methode traditionnelle at Domaine Chandon began in 1986. Just a one-hour drive from Melbourne, the estate is located in the picturesque Yarra Valley _ an area with a perfect combination of great soil and cool climate for cultivating traditional Champagne grape varieties _ chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier.
At this time of the year, Australia's winter, vines take a rest to re-energise themselves for spring and during their dormancy, arduous pruning takes place at the Domaine Chandon vineyard.
''In winter, it can be very cold, very wet, and you would have your back against the wind when you're pruning, and so it's one of the worst jobs of the year,'' said Chandon winemaker Glenn Thompson.
Domaine Chandon is located in the picturesque Yarra Valley, where a combination of a cool climate and great soil allows cultivation of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
''It takes three months to get through the pruning, which requires meticulous skills and patience from our workforce. This is one of the most important stages though, and if we get it wrong, the crop level won't be right and we won't get the structure and flavour that we are after for our grapes in making sparkling wine.''
This year's pruning aims to select the strongest shoots and cut back one to two of the best buds, which will give the right crop level for the 2013 Chandon sparkling wines.
In charge of production, Thomson said the bottling of the 2012 vintage began last month and that batch of wine will be released in two years time.
''You can celebrate Christmas 2014 with a Chandon made from this year's harvest,'' he said. ''It's a really long process, from picking the grapes to the final release of the wine. The best part for me is watching someone enjoy our wine.''
His colleague, senior winemaker Dan Buckle said autumn harvesting, beginning in March, is the best time of the year for him.
''The moment leading up to harvesting is an exciting and optimistic time as we walk through the vineyards to see whether the grapes are ready for picking,'' he said. ''Knowing what the grape tastes like and knowing what the wine will be is really like crystal ball-gazing, a real anticipation. But with increasing experience, we get to understand the grape's inherent quality and its flavour for making great sparkling wine.''
Grapes from the Domaine Chandon estate as well as other vineyards in Victoria and Tasmania are picked for winemaking, and the different microclimates and soil types allow a diversity to produce complexity and balance in sparkling wines.
''Different soils have different nutrients and abilities to hold water, and so each grape from the different soils has its own personality, but they all come together to create something greater,'' Buckle said.
The traditional winemaking process starts with the pressing and settling of the grapes. The juice then undergoes the first fermentation as it is inoculated with Champagne yeast. Around two weeks of fermentation results in a clear and still base wine.
Up to 100 base wines are blended, which is an art as winemakers decide which base wines and what percentages of each will be used for the final blends.
Dan Buckle, Chandon senior winemaker.
The highlight of the traditional method is the second fermentation invented by a Benedictine monk, Dom Pierre Perignon, who uttered, ''Come quickly, I am drinking the stars'', after he captured bubbles in a bottle of what was originally still Champagne.
Taking eight weeks, the second fermentation begins with adding a small amount of sugar and a selected yeast to the blended wines, which are transferred to bottles, then sealed with a crown cap and stored in temperature-controlled cellars. During this period, the yeast and sugar produce carbon dioxide that builds pressure in the bottle. This gas dissolves into the liquid, resulting in sparkling wine, which is left to age for 18 months.
The yeast is then moved to the neck of the bottle by the riddling process, which can be done by hand or with machines. Once the yeast has moved to the neck of the bottle, the wines are disgorged by freezing the neck and removing the crown seal to let the pressure push the frozen pellet of yeast out.
The result is adjusted to ensure a balanced wine that is aged for at least another three months. From start to finish, the traditional method takes between 25 and 40 months before the wine is ready to be released.
''Our French heritage is combined with Australian innovation for Chandon winemaking. In France, there are stricter regulations in making Champagne, whereas in Australia we can do more, like making a pure sparkling Pinot Meunier or using modern techniques,'' said Buckle, who holds a Bachelor of Applied Science in wine. ''And today we're employing the best of both worlds _ traditional and modern methods _ to make great Australian sparkling wine.''
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- Writer: Kanokporn Chanasongkram