Things have caught up so quickly since COVID vaccinations have started - Sparkling Wine Week is almost over!
The first full week in July, International Sparkling Wine Week is everyone's chance to gather together and celebrate one of the most enjoyable experiences in the wine world! In this article we will be covering the 6 types of fermentation used to make sparkling wines, as well as the 6 most popular areas that produce bubbly.
Method #1: Traditional Method
Usually the big part of making a sparkling wine sparkle involves a secondary fermentation. Traditional method sees that fermentation occur in-bottle, a blend of yeast, wine, and sugar called liqueur de tirage is added to begin the process, and the bottled capped. This adds time spent with the yeast or lees, adding flavor and depth. Once fermentation is complete, or the winemaker decides is finished, the neck of the bottles are incrementally pointed downward or sur pointe, and the bottles rotated, drawing the dead yeast towards the cap. The sediment is then removed or disgorged, and then a bit of sugar and wine or dosage is blended and added to the bottle. The final cork is then added, and the wine will sit until its time to drink or ship out. This is the most expensive method of fermentation.
Method #2: Charmet Method (aka Tank Method)
Named after its inventor Eugène Charmat, this method takes the secondary fermentation out of the bottle, and instead adds the liqueur de tirage straight into a pressurized tank. The secondary fermentation occurs en masse, and is ceased by cooling the tank, the wine is then filtered and bottled.
Method #3: Transfer Method
This method blends Traditional and Charmet. Secondary fermentation occurs in bottle, then the wine is emptied into a pressurized tank, where is is then filtered and bottled. This gives the lees contact of traditional, without the time/cost of riddling and disgorgement.
Method #4: Continuous Method
Continuous Method is based on Charmet. The liqueur de tirage is added continuously into wine being pumped through a series of tanks, some with wooden chips/shavings that A.) add toasty, oaky qualities, and B.) accumulate lees on them, helping clarify the wine. This method is used mostly in Germany and their Sekt sparkling wines.
Method #5: Ancestral Method
This is, as the name suggests, the oldest method of producing sparkling wine. The major difference is that secondary fermentation does not occur. Instead the still-fermenting wine is moved from tank directly into bottle, when fermentation finishes under cap or cork. Many who use caps go on to filter the wine and then cork, those who cork when finishing fermentation keep the cloudy wine unfiltered, giving earth notes, a fuller body, and better textures.
Method #6: Carbonation
Carbonation is as it sounds, injecting the wine with Carbon Dioxide, much like they do with soda. This is the cheapest way to put bubbles into wine, and thought of as being used on inferior product. Even if the wine used is of a good quality, the bubbles with dissipate quickly, leaving you with a flat, former-sparkling sparkling.
Now, sparkling wine can be produced anywhere in the world where wine is made - which is just about anywhere. That being said, there are some areas that have the most experience doing so, and these are:
Champagne - Wine folk use this as a base for sparkling wine knowledge. Champagne is the primary region in France to produce sparkling wine, and the most renowned. So much so that the name has been used widely to describe any sparkling wine, but never forget sparkling wines from Champagne are always called Champagne, but not every sparkling wine is a Champagne. For example:
Prosecco - Named after the village of Prosecco in the Northeast of Italy, right on the Adriatic Sea, this grape hails from Slovenia, where it is also known as Glera. These are know to be a sweeter style of sparkling, and normally use the Charmet method.
Cava - a sparkling wine from Spain that has gained a lot of steam over the years on the international market. Using mostly the grape variety Macabeo, Cava's will also have Paralada and Xerello in them from time to time. These wines are known for having flavors of citrus, orchard fruit such as pear, and floral notes.
Crémant - Sparkling wines still made in France, but outside of Champagne, which is quite a few places. Lower in cost, these wines can have creamy, nutty notes that make them a nice change of pace for many sparkling lovers.
Sekt - Mentioned earlier in the article as being from Germany, these wines are lower in alcohol (as low as 5%) and sweetness, with bright acidity, notes of orchard fruit, and floral notes. These wines have been gaining popularity outside of Germany for the last decade or so.
Rosé - Sparkling Rosé are produced all over the world, and absolutely worth mentioning. In Champagne and other regions, the rosé version of a white sparkling label is usually more expensive do to a longer vinification process, has a larger depth of flavor, a more full body, and the notes expected from a rosé - Strawberry, citrus, honeydew melon, rhubarb, and rose petal. Always keep an eye out, these are quite a treat at a higher quality level.