Timing of The Harvest
At Domaine Chandon (Napa Valley CA) they usually harvest Chardonnay for sparkling between 18-20 Brix. In a cool year this is usually the third week of August. It is a very intense and hectic time with 4 presses going all the time. You have to constantly make picking decisions. If you bring in the fruit at a too high potential alcohol, the flavour profile will be wrong. Too much sugar will produce too much alochol so that when you do the second fermentation (which normally adds 1.5% abv) your total alcohol is far too high. If the total is 13% and you have sufficient flavour intensity with very low tannins then it is ok, but alcohol amplifies astringency so you have to be careful. They like to have between 12-12.5% abv in the finished wines.
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