Learning more about wine making: Dosage

My wine-making education continued this month with an invitation to the tasting of Rothley Wine‘s latest rose sparkling vintage for dosage. Dosaaaaaaage (you can’t say it in a Northern accent, that’s wrong) is the process of adding sweetener to a sparkling wine in between disgorging (removing the yeast lees from the wine after the first ferment) and final corking. The aim is to balance out the acidity in the wine. Brut nature vintages will not have any dosage added – see quality cava from Catalonia where the aim is to get the bone driest wine possible. But for a sparkling rose, you can take a little extra sweetening to get the balance right.

Science, sparkling wine and cake – is there a better afternoon?

The process is relatively simple – just one of trial and error. Taste the wine, check for balance and trial different percentages of dosage. However, the difficult part comes with getting accurate measurements using tiny increments. We were looking in the 1.25 – 2% region, so you can see that it is a surprisingly exact science where a small change really does make a big difference to the character of the wine. We ended up compromising at the lower end, 1.4%, where we all agreed the fruit flavours had a good chance to show their complexity, without it being sickly sweet.

Weigh that wine!

Of course, once the wine is finally bottled with the dosage, it will still continue to develop in flavour over time, so knowing the correct amount to add is also dependent on experience in understanding how the acidity of the wine will soften in the bottle. Of course, this is experience that I don’t yet have. I have observed the rounding off of Rothley Wine’s Spirit of Freedom – the existing rose sparkling – over the last year though, so I felt I could give it at least a little bit of an educated guess. Time will tell!

Compare and contrast

The wine will be called ‘Noble Purpose’ and already has great flavour and beautiful colour, even though it is still young and by no means finished. The wine is being made for Rothley Wines at Halfpenny Green Vineyard. They make a lot of the sparkling wine in the region because it is just too time consuming and costly for the smaller, family operated vineyards to do for themselves. Halfpenny Green very generously threw some samples my way on the day too – you can read all about their Rondo here and there are more posts to come on their wines.

Another great learning experience for me and the anticipation of another great English sparkling wine to come.


Bestselling author and freelance drinks writer. Champion of pubs and breweries. Occasional printmaker.

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