How to make a sparkling wine/mead using a priming sugar?


  I have made may first wine and meads this past winter and I would like to know what is the best way to make a sparkling wine/mead. I do not have access to a carbonation keg but I have read on line can wines be carbonated using a priming sugar. I have been saving champagne bottles and I have access to a wine bottle floor corker. I have used both potassium metabisulphite and sorbate in my wine and mead . From what I have read for carbonation I cannot use K sorbate since it will inhibit yeast fermentation. I would appreciate any information as how to make a sparkling wine and the equipment it requires.


Cbc yeast and some sugar…since your yeast is effectively terminated ?


Here’s an article I wrote on making sparkling wine from kits. It’s a little different, but the ideas are the same. The big take-away here is that if you do bottle carbonation, your mead must be completely dry. THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT: you can either have bubbles, or you can have sweet, but you can’t have both. If the mead has any sugar left the champagne yeast will eat it, and turn your bottles into razor-flinging glass hand grenades.

Making Sparkling Wine from Kits

CAUTION! The bottle fermentation process used to carbonate wine can create very high pressure. Your sparkling wine bottles must withstand over 90 pounds per square inch. Only proper Sparkling wine bottles can be used. Any other bottle may shatter, possibly causing a dangerous shower of glass.
Preparing the sparkling wine base
Produce a 6 gallon wine kit (white or rosé) in the normal way, up to the stabilizing and clearing day. Do not use a kit that has an oak addition: oak flavours in sparkling wine are not appropriate. Do not add the sulphite or Sorbate included with the kit. This is very important because these packages contain enough stabilizers to prevent the wine from carbonating properly

On the stabilizing and clearing day, dissolve 1/4 teaspoon of metabisulphite powder in 125 ml (1/2 cup) of cool water and add to the wine. This amount will prevent the wine from oxidizing, but will not hamper yeast during bottle carbonation. Add the fining agents, following the kit instructions. Remember: Do not add the sulphite or Sorbate packs or the wine will not carbonate!

Rack your wine back into a clean, sanitized carboy. Wait 10 days.

Observe your wine. When clear, it is ready to be made into sparkling wine. It does not need to be filtered.
Rack the wine from the carboy into a sanitized primary fermenter. Avoid disturbing the sediment. Dissolve 325 ml (1-3/4 cups) white table sugar in 500 ml (2 cups) boiling water. Stir thoroughly and gently into wine.

Carefully rehydrate one package of champagne yeast following these instructions exactly: stir the yeast into 1/5 cup of water at precisely 100°F. Wait 5 minutes then stir yeast thoroughly and gently into wine. Don’t agitate it too much or you could oxidize it.

Siphon your wine into the champagne bottles, leaving 2.5 cm (1 inch) of space at the top of each bottle.

If your champagne bottles accept crown caps, cap them now. Otherwise, insert plastic stoppers and wire them down using wire cages and a wire-twisting tool. Using anything other than a proper champagne bottle could result in dangerous breakage: do not attempt to use non-champagne bottles!

Store bottles on their sides at 65–75°F for two months to carbonate.


After two months your wine will be fully carbonated and you can try your first bottle (it will improve for at least a year in your cellar). However, the carbonation process leaves a layer of yeast cells in the bottle which will make the wine cloudy if you do not take steps to keep it out of your glass.

If you don’t wish to go through the riddling and degorging process (it’s a bit time consuming, and can be messy), simply store the bottles upright for one month to allow the sediment to collect on the bottom. Chill before serving and pour carefully. Leave the last ½ inch of wine in the bottle, to prevent sediment from being transferred into your glass.
Separating Your Sparkling Wine from the Sediment—Méthode Traditionelle
After the two month carbonating period, invert the bottles (place them cap down) in wine boxes to allow the yeast sediment to collect in the neck of the bottle. To assist this sediment formation, raise each bottle about 5 cm (2 inches), twist sharply ¼ turn, then drop back into the box. This is called riddling, and should be repeated once a day for two to three weeks. (When riddling, please wear gloves, long sleeves and eye protection.) The inverted wine should then be aged for approximately two more weeks, until it is completely clear.
Degorging 1: Preparing your dosage (topping wine)
Because the sediment collects in the neck of the bottle, you will be able to remove it. This is called degorging. However, degorging results in the loss of a small amount of wine, so it’s necessary to top up bottles to avoid low fill levels and oxidation. For your topping wine, choose something similar to your sparkling wine base and chill it; you’ll need between 50 and 100 ml (1/5–1/3 cup) per bottle. (If you wish to sweeten your sparkling wine, dissolve a half-cup of white table sugar in every quart of wine used for dosage. Gently warm the dosage wine to help dissolve the sugar. Then chill the sweetened dosage.)
Degorging 2: Freezing
Remove the sparkling wine from the box (still inverted) and place in your freezer, inverted. Allow it to chill, monitoring the bottles frequently. When ice crystals form in the neck of the bottle, it is ready to be degorged. (Do not allow bottles to freeze completely: they will break, releasing wine inside your freezer).

Degorging 3: Popping the cork
This is best done outdoors—or in a room where the walls, floor and ceiling can easily be washed—due to possible gushing of the carbonated wine. Please wear gloves, long sleeves and eye protection when handling the bottles.

Remove the bottle from the freezer. Keep it inverted. While holding the bottle upside-down, remove the crown cap or undo the wire and carefully pop the cork. The pressure will free the cork and push the sediment out of the bottle in one step. As it gushes free, cover the neck of the bottle with your thumb and turn it right side up. (You need a quick thumb to avoid losing much wine!)

Once the sediment is ejected from the wine, top the bottle with your topping wine. Be careful to pour the topping wine down the side of the bottle to prevent foaming.

You can re-cap the wine, or insert a sanitized Champagne stopper and wire it down securely. You will have the most success with plastic stoppers. Cork stoppers are difficult to insert correctly using hand equipment, and can be difficult to extract.

Age your wine for at least a month before trying it.

Sparkling wine will improve tremendously with age. While it may be tempting to drink it all as soon as it is degorged, try keeping back a few bottles for a year or more. You’ll be delighted with the results.

Hi Tim,

 This information is what I have been looking for. Knowing the 1/4 tsp Kmeta addition not hindering the yeast and all the steps in the method clearly explained will be a big help.

Thank you for the reply,


I’ve had success carbonating wine and meads in beer or champagne bottles using a priming sugar calculator, such as the one on NB’s site. But you definitely need pressure-capable bottles. Standard crown-top beer bottles can handle around 3 volumes or so pressure, whereas champagne bottles are good up to 6 or 7 volumes. Knowing how much wine or mead you have will let you determine the amount of priming sugar to add.

But as mentioned above, it MUST be fermented dry for the calculator to be accurate, otherwise you are looking at bottles that may explode. When you go to bottle, add your priming sugar to the bottling bucket, stir everything gently so you don’t oxidize anything, and fill bottles.

To figure out how much sugar to add, enter your volume of wine or mead, and the temperature at which it is stored (assuming it’s been sitting in secondary for awhile). These calculators make an estimate for how much CO2 is dissolved in the liquid, which for beer is usually around 0.8 volumes. However, if it has been sitting for several months, it will have significantly less dissolved CO2. A good rule of thumb is 0.4 volumes of residual CO2 if it has been sitting longer than 6 months.

Most beer is carbonated to around 2.2 - 2.7 volumes. Carbonating to 2.7-3.0 volumes provides a nice sparkling beverage (although I like to carb sour beers to 4 to 5 volumes!). If it’s been sitting for awhile, overshoot a little, so maybe carb it to 3.1-3.4 volumes to get to the same carb level. If you go much higher than this, you’ll risk the sediment in the bottle getting stirred up from the carbonation, hence the traditional step of removing the sediment as Tim describes above. Either way, the second or third time you pour a carbonated mead or wine, the sediment will all be stirred up either way so I like to pour them all at once.

If you want to sweeten it, using a non-fermentable sugar is a good option, although it isn’t traditional. For something fermented with sacch yeast, I like to use xylitol as it’s really flavor neutral and brewers yeast cannot touch it.

Hi Porkchop,

    Can the entire bottling process be done using champagne bottles and crown top beer caps or do I have to use champagne corks for sparkling wine pressures?  I have read using a dry wine base with 10% alcohol or 19 - 21 brix allows allows the bottle fermentation after the addition of priming sugar you get the extra one percent. Tim's reply offers two ways to make a sparkling wine..i may go the more complicated route on a one gallon batch. Are there any special requirements with a sparking mead vs wine I should know? I may try a home made grape wine .....I have some dried elderberries.

Thanks again,


Sure, you just need to keep an eye on how much carbonation you want. With a crown cap on a champagne bottle, the crown cap will come off before you risk the glass breaking, so that will be the limiting factor. Just about any champagne bottle will accept a crown cap, but they are usually made for 29mm crowns and will require a special bell adapter. Not a big deal, the larger bell isn’t that expensive and works with many different cappers, although with the red baron style you also have to reverse the two metal plates that grip the lip on the bottle. If you have one of these, the metal plates will tap out with a hammer and punch, and they have the cut-out for a 29mm bottle on the other side.

There also are champagne bottles that use a 26mm crown, so you need to keep an eye out for what size bottles you have.

Another option is to cork-and-cap your bottles if you don’t want to mess with champagne corks and cages. Simply insert a #9 cork into the neck of the bottle and cap it with a crown cap. A lot of Belgian beers are highly carbed with this type of closure (think Cantillon, Fantome, etc). I’ve done 4 volumes CO2 with this type of closure without issue.

When you bottle condition your wine or mead, the things you’ll need to keep an eye on are the ABV of the beverage, the alcohol tolerance of the yeast, and the amount of time it has been sitting. If it’s been in secondary for over 6 months, there’s a good chance the yeast may not be viable and you’ll need to re-yeast to get carbonation. Even if it is, it may take a long time to carbonate. I bottled a cyser that was a year old, did not re-yeast, and it took another year to carbonate. But it eventually did carbonate.

Also, if you’ve bumped up against the alcohol tolerance of the yeast, you won’t have much luck carbonating. In this case, you’ll need to add something like EC-1118 or WLP-099 that will be able to handle higher alcohol. Just make sure that it’s fermented dry, as the new yeast may be able to consume sugars that the previous yeast could not handle.

You can use the same process between both wine and mead - there’s really no functional difference between the two.