The Science Behind Sparkling Wine
Get your geek on with the science behind sparkling wine!
We’ve finally made it to Part 6 of my 6 Part Prosecco Series. By now you should be a pro, because we’ve covered everything from the basics all the way up to mixing your own cocktails, throwing your own party, and finding a good bottle (or 5!) under $15. To wrap up the series, we’ll finally be getting down to the nitty-gritty of it all – the science behind sparkling wine! If you need to catch up on any of the other articles, check them out below:
- Part 1: What You Need To Know About Prosecco
- Part 2: Getting To Know Glera: Your Quick Guide To Vine & Wine
- Part 3: 10 Prosecco Cocktails You Need To Mix Up Now
- Part 4: How To Throw A Prosecco Tasting Party
- Part 5: 5 Easy Bottles of Prosecco Under $15
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You may recall from Parts 1 & 2 that we discussed a little bit about how Prosecco was made. The science behind sparkling wine isn’t complicated, and the differences in production methods are worth understanding if you enjoy various types of bubbly, whether it be Prosecco, Cava, Champagne, Franciacorta, or any other sparkler.
Not all sparkling wine is created equal
There are 7 different methods of producing sparkling wine, 3 of which I will talk about at length. The other 4 are not as utilized in the wine world, but will still get an honorable mention.
- Traditional Method
- Charmat Method
- Transfer Method
- Ancestral Method
- Dioise Method
- Continuous Method
- Soda Method
Also known as: Champagne method, méthode champenoise, méthode classique, méthode tranditionalle
Wines made in this method: Champagne, Crémant, Cava, higher-end Sekt, California “Champagne”, anything labeled méthode champenoise or similar
- The wine begins when a blend of grapes, or cuvée, undergoes its first fermentation in a barrel.
- The wine is then added to a bottle along with yeast, nutrients for the yeast, and sugar (the first batch of which is called tirage).
- The yeast will eventually consume the nutrients and sugar, producing carbon dioxide within the bottle for the second fermentation.
- The yeast by-products (called lees) accumulate over time within the bottle. The wine ages with the lees to provide additional flavor and body before they are removed (disgorged).
- After disgorging, the wine is dosed with another batch of sugar. The amount of this residual sugar determines whether the wine is brut, demi-sec, etc.
Also known as: metodo Martinotti, metodo italiano, tank method, cuve close
Wines made in this method: Prosecco, most Asti, lower-end Sekt
- Developed and patented by Federico Martinotti in 1895, and perfected by Eugène Charmat in 1907.
- The second fermentation is carried out in a large stainless steel tank, instead of directly in the bottle. This makes for a more affordable sparkling wine than the Traditional Method.
- Lees are filtered out of the tank, instead of being disgorged.
- Dosage also happens directly in the tanks before bottling.
- The result is a fresher, crisper sparkling wine; some grape varieties are better suited to this type of fermentation, such as Prosecco’s grape Glera.
Also known as: transversage method
Wines made in this method: sparkling wines from Australia & New Zealand, Champagne formats outside of the 375mL, 750mL & 1.5L sizes
- The Transfer Method follows the same technique as the Traditional Method until the lees are ready to be removed.
- The bottles are emptied into a large tank, where the lees are filtered out and the wine is blended. This helps to reduce bottle-to-bottle variation.
- The blended wine is then dosed and filled into new bottles for sale.
Also known as: méthode ancestrale, méthode rurale, méthode artisanale, méthode gaillacoise, pétillant-naturel, pét-nat, pétillant originel
Wines made in this method: Gaillac, Bugey Cerdon, Blanquette de Limoux, Montlouis-sur-Loire; other French, German and North American wines labeled with the above method names
- As you can tell by the name, the oldest method of producing sparkling wine. The wine is fermented once in the bottle, and is then filtered and replaced back into the bottle without additional sugar. This method produces a wine with low alcohol, but is naturally sweet.
Also known as: original dioise process
Wines made in this method: Clairette de Die, Drôme valley sparkling wines, Asti Spumante from Canelli
- Just like the Ancestral Method, but add some cooling into the mix during the yeast step.
Also known as: Russian Method
Wines made in this method: Sovetskoye Shampanskoye or Soviet sparkling wine
- Similar to the Charmat Method; however the tanks have special rings or added oak chips.
Also known as: Carbonation Method
Wines made in this method: Cheap sparkling wines
- This is exactly what you think it is – sparkling wines that are sold at soda prices, made just like soda where the bubbles are injected into the wine with a carbonation machine. Yeah, really fancy, huh?
So there’s your science behind sparkling wine in a nutshell!
Now you can impress even the most sophisticated wine snob with your newfound knowledge of bubbly, and let them know that there is more to life than just Champagne (like, 6 more kinds, to be exact)!
- The 100-Year-Old Loophole That Makes California Champagne Legal via VinePair
- Beyond Champagne: 23 Sparkling Wines of France via Wine Folly
- The Sparkling Wines of Italy via Sparkling Winos
- Why You Should Pay More For Champagne (And What To Buy When You Can’t) via Vinography
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE KIND OF SPARKLING WINE?
WHAT PART OF THE PROSECCO SERIES DID YOU LIKE BEST?
TGG WANTS TO HEAR FROM YOU IN THE COMMENTS!