Assemblage. A winemaker puts a whole lot of thought, and a good amount of heart and soul, into this process.
First things first. We're going to start out with a little French lesson. Assemblage is a French word, meaning assembling, and is pronounced ah-sem-blaushj. Want to hear what that sounds like? Click here for a little sound clip and then let the word roll off your tongue. Repeat.
So what is assemblage? In simple terms, it's the art of blending different lots of base wines to create a unique final blend or cuvee. But it's really so much more.
First of all, the base wines can differ in many ways:
1. They can be made from different grape varieties.
2. They can be from the same grape variety, but from different vineyards or different parts of the vineyard.
3. They could be aged in different types of barrels.
4. The wines could come from grapes picked at different times during the vintage year and therefore have different levels of sugar and acidity.
5. The wines could come from different vintage years
The process is an art because the winemaker has to carefully decide which wines can complement each other. An experienced winemaker tastes and smells until they find that special combination of aromas and flavors needed for the blend. But there's more. When finding this balance, the winemaker also needs to take into account the changes that will happen to the blend during secondary fermentation.
The goal of the winemaker is to achieve a well-balanced wine, while at the same time preserving the unique qualities of each base wine used in the blend.
The winemaker fine-tunes their art each year, making adjustments based on the variations in the grapes as well as the desired taste. For example, our ISC Brut started out as a blend of St. Pepin and Frontenac Gris grapes. We've tweaked this over the years, and our most recent blend includes Chardonel, Frontenac Gris, and La Crosse grape varieties. Last year, we were also fortunate to have some Illinois-grown Chardonnay grapes to include in the blend. We take the process quite seriously in our attempt to create a unique experience for you.
So there it is. Assemblage. The next time you are enjoying a glass of bubbly, spend some time experiencing the unique aromas and flavors of the assemblage. Cheers!