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The purpose of disgorgement is to eliminate the deposit that has collected in the neck of the bottle as a result of the remuage process.
Disgorgement is a critical point in the life of Champagne wine, the grand finale after many months and sometimes years of peaceful maturation on lees.
The neck of the bottle is plunged into a refrigerating solution at – 27°C. The sediment (in the form of a frozen plug) is then ejected under pressure when the bottle is opened, with minimum loss of wine and pressure.
Disgorgement triggers a short, sharp intake of oxygen, which together with dosage (see below) will have a significant impact on aroma development.
Bottles with metal caps are generally disgorged by machine.
Certain cuvees are still disgorged by hand (‘à la volée’), holding the bottle upside down, opening it and then quickly tilting it back upwards so that only enough wine is forced out to take the sediment with it. This traditional technique is still used today for very small or large bottles and very old vintages.