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The difference between Classic Method, Ancestral and Charmat

Which the difference between Prosecco and Franciacorta? How is a sparkling wine produced? What does dosage mean? That of bubbles (you already know those of ILLICAVINI?) it is a very varied world, full of nuances and technical terms that not everyone knows. In this article we want to try to resolve some widespread doubts, starting with the difference between the two main methods of making sparkling wine: Charmat Method and Classic Method.

Charmat Method and Classic Method. 

The wines produced with the Martinotti Method or Charmat Method (from the names of Federico Martinotti from Asti, who invented the method, and Eugéne Charmat, who patented the equipment to put it into practice) come from still white wines: after having undergone a first fermentation during the normal production process, these wines undergo one second in steel autoclaves, at controlled temperature and pressure, with the addition of yeast and sugar. During this phase, which lasts from 30 days to 6 months, the yeasts “eat” the sugars and transform them into alcohol and carbon dioxide, giving life to the characteristic bubbles.

Wines with the Charmat Method: Prosecco

At this point, the wine is filtered, then the dosage, i.e. the “final correction” with the addition of a mixture of wine and sugar, and finally bottling. In Charmat method, the sparkling process is completed in the bottle and therefore the wines, once bottled, are ready to be drunk. Since it is a rather simple and quick process, the Charmat Method gives life to  mostly light, fresh wines with fruity notes, with a fairly coarse and evanescent perlage (the structure and size of the bubbles): a typical example is Prosecco.




The Charmat hybrid method in primary school

We at ILLICA have decided to develop this method which consists in making the froth take place in an autoclave through only the first fermentation without selected yeasts. The wine is then left on its lees for at least 6-7 months in order to accelerate the autolysis of the yeasts and give fruity notes as well as freshness and more complex notes that evolve over time like those of the classic method. In addition, the pearl is very fine.

The Classic Method

The Classic method o Champenoise Method (for Champagnes produced in the homonymous region) or Crémant Method (for sparkling wines produced in the rest of France) differs from Charmat Method mainly because it carries out the second fermentation, and therefore the sparkling process, directly in the bottle. The base of sparkling wines is usually made up of one  cuvéè, i.e. a blend of wines of different types and/or vintages (unless it is a vintage sparkling wine, i.e. produced with a single wine from a single vintage), which is bottled with the addition of a selection of strong,strong,   sugars and yeasts(tirage). At ILLICA, on the other hand, we use residual sugars as we block the fermentation preceding the tirage and we do not use selected yeasts but its natural ones. In the bottle, the wine carries out the second fermentation resting in a horizontal position for an average duration

blankDisgorgement and dosage of the Classic Method

At this point, the phase beginsl remuage: each bottle is rotated by 1/8 and slightly inclined with the cap downwards to deposit the fermentation residues in the neck. When the bottle reaches a vertical position, the neck is frozen with special machinery. At ILLICA we do not freeze the neck. So we proceed with the  disgorgement (degorgement): the bottle is uncorked and the frozen lees are expelled. We carry out this procedure on the volley. The last steps are the dosage, with the addition of a mixture of sugars and wine to restore the expelled part of the wine, and the the    definitive capping. Longer, more expensive and more complex than the Charmat Method, the Classic Method gives life to  more structured and full-bodied wines, with richer notes mainly related to yeast and a finer and more persistent perlage.




The Ancestral Method

Even if it is less known, there is a third method of producing bubbles: the Ancestral method. This starts with one  light pressing of the grapes, which is used for the extraction of the “indigenous yeasts” present in the skin of the bunches of grapes. The fermentation is then done in  steel barrels stainless   at controlled temperatures and is blocked at a precise sugar level: this serves to guarantee the resumption of fermentation after bottling, which takes place without the addition of further sugars or yeasts.



The classification of the bubbles based on the residual sugar

In addition to differing in the method of making sparkling wine, sparkling wines can be also classified according to the residual sugar. In fact, based on the quantity of sugar contained, each sparkling wine is defined to be regulated in a different way:

– Pas dosé or zero dosage or nature: sugar content lower than 1 gram/litre. These are wines to which no sugars are added during the dosing phase

– Brut nature: sugar content less than 3 g/l

– Extra brut: sugar content less than 6 g/l

– Brut: sugar content less than 15 g/l

– Extra dry: sugar content between 12 and 20 g/l

– Dry o Secco: sugar content between 18 and 35 gr/l

– Demi sec or Abboccato: sugar content between 33 and 50 g/l

– Sweet or Doux:: sugar content higher than 50 g/l

The production areas of Italian bubbles

Last and important classification of sparkling wines we want to mention is the one based on the production area. In Italy there are several, each with its own characteristics and peculiarities. The best known are:

– Conegliano-Valdobbiadene: these are two hilly areas in the Treviso area, which give life to Prosecco DOCG, produced with the Glera vine

– Franciacorta: hilly area between Brescia and the southern end of Lake Iseo, which gives life to the homonymous Classic Method DOCG sparkling wines, produced with Chardonnay, Pinot nero and Pinot bianco grapes

– Oltrepò Pavese: another area dedicated to the production of DOCG Classic Method sparkling wines produced largely with Pinot Noir grapes

 Province of Trento: Trento DOC is born here, a Classic Method sparkling wine obtained in many cases from 100% Chardonnay grapes

– Alta Langa: The Piedmontese Alta Langa gives life to sparkling wines often vintage and produced with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes

  • Then there is our area, the upper Val D’ongina where the fossil lands are very suitable for the production of bubbles and are slowly making themselves known to the best critics.