Did you know that Italian sparkling wine has very ancient roots? A monk of the sixteenth-century, Francesco Scacchi, describes a “vinum titillans, sive piccans” (literally, “sparkling wine” or “spumante”) twenty years before the birth of the famous abbot Dom Perignon, who, according to French tradition, developed the long and laborious process for making Champagne…
Natural sparkling wines
Natural sparkling wines can be white, rosé, red, slightly sweet, sweet, dry, aromatic or less so… There are two common production methods: The Champenois method and the Martinotti-Charmat method.
The Champenois method, or classic method
This is native to the French region of Champagne and is a vinification technique which is divided into two phases:
• production of a base wine, usually a cuvée (or blend) of specially selected wines;
• fermentation, or second fermentation in the bottle in order to obtain a sparkling wine.
The Martinotti-Charmat method
This method was devised by Federico Martinotti, and later patented by the French Eugène Charmat around 1910. With the same methods of refermentation in the bottle, a pressurized steel tank containing 100-500 hl is used: times are shortened, so as not to lose the fragrance and aromatic richness of the grapes, operating in conditions of maximum cleanliness and controlling the temperature to facilitate the work of the yeasts.
Italian sparkling wine
Italian classic method sparkling wines made their debut as late as the second half of the nineteenth century, thanks to such pioneers as the Piedmontese Camillo Gancia (1860), Antonio Carpenè (1868) and Giulio Ferrari (1902), who lent their names to famous labels. The main varieties, strictly non-aromatic, are the same as those from beyond the Alps: Chardonnay and Pinot
Aromatic sparkling wine
The aromatic sparkling wines represent a conspicuous slice of the universe of bubbles. They are produced from aromatic grapes (in other words, distinctly perfumed and fragrant), like the Muscat grape. The most widely-used method for making aromatic sparkling wines is the Martinotti-Charmat method, although there is no lack of great versions of Moscato d’Asti and Prosecco Superiore Docg made with the classic method.
It is important not to confuse aromatic sparkling wines and aromatized wines. The latter, in fact, are produced from a still wine of at least 10 degrees, to which alcohol, sugar and flavouring ingredients are added, such as herbs or spices in the right proportions.
Artificial sparkling wines
Artificial sparkling wines, unlike natural ones where carbon dioxide is formed following a physiological process, acquire this substance through a rapid industrial process.
The quality is usually poor, also in terms of perlage, which is coarse and evanescent.