Bubbles have always embodied the very concepts of finesse, elegance and quality. But how are they produced? Let's see the difference between the Classic Method (or Champenoise) and the Martinotti Method (or Charmat), in some simple steps.
The methods of producing bubbles are different, resulting in profoundly different outcomes that are worth knowing. Calcareous and well-drained soils are some of the factors for obtaining quality sparkling wines. But let's see together what the differences are from the point of view of the production technique , and therefore what differentiates the Classic Method (or Champenoise) and the Martinotti Method (or Charmat).
Let's start with the story
Few people know it but wine with bubbles is not a modern invention. The production of these types of special wines begins with the Romans. But the oldest mention of "sparkling" wines is even in the Bible, where in Psalm 75 we read that "a cup in which wine foams". We are a millennium before Christ.
Of course they were not the sparkling wines of today, which we now discover how they are made.
What is the Classical Method?
The lively bubbles of sparkling wines can be obtained with different methods, but experience shows that the method of refermentation in the bottle is the one that allows us to process the finest grapes and obtain the best results . Provided that we start with quality base wines, obtained from the most suitable vines, that we proceed with specific oenological practices and that, after secondary fermentation, the wines are refined in contact with the yeasts for as long as necessary for them to develop their better aromas.
Let's see how the Classic Method is produced, in 10 steps:
- Blending of the base wines : we start with the still white wine obtained from pressing and alcoholic fermentation of the grapes.
- Addition of the liqueur de tirage : a mixture made up of a little wine with a precise quantity of cane sugar, yeasts and mineral substances capable of activating the second fermentation in the bottle . From this moment, bubbles slowly form.
- Bottling : the wine is bottled in traditional champagnotte bottles (bottles for sparkling wine). The color of the glass (dark green) protects the wine from the action of light, which is dangerous because it can create oxidation. At this point the bottles are sealed with a stainless steel crown cap, which ensures perfect sealing and prevents rust from attacking.
- Second fermentation : the yeasts transform the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide and form many secondary substances, responsible for all those aromas and flavors that make sparkling wine so pleasant.
- Aging on the yeasts : the lack of sugar, the high pressure and the concentration of ethyl alcohol create unfavorable conditions for the yeasts, which therefore undergo autolysis : they release all the absorbed substances, enriching the sparkling wine with the characteristic yeast aromas and aromas . During the refinement on the yeasts, the bottles are stored in a horizontal position to put the residues in suspension (this way they are eliminated) and promote maturation.
- Remuage : the bottles are placed on the "pupitre", i.e. wooden stands with shaped holes. Remuage consists of rotating the bottles to bring them from an initial horizontal position to a vertical one, causing the yeast residues from the walls to detach and accumulate near the cork. It can be done manually or through automatic devices called "gyropalette".
- Disgorgement or dégorgement : elimination of the crown cap together with the fermentation residues deposited near the cap.
- Dosage : addition of sugars based on the type of sparkling wine you intend to produce. In particular, there are 7 classifications of sparkling wines based on residual sugar: 1. Pas Dosé (less than 3 grams of sugar per liter and no added sugar) 2. Extra brut (0-6 g/l of sugar) 3. Brut ( 6-12 g/l of sugar) 4. Extra dry (12-17 g/l of sugar) 5. Dry (17- 32 g/l of sugar) 6. Demi-sec (32- 50 g/l of sugar) ) 7. Doux (more than 50 g/l of sugar).
- Final corking : the bottle must be capped with the traditional mushroom cork stopper, which guarantees elasticity and sturdiness. The lower part of the stopper is made up of two cork washers, to ensure a perfect seal.
- Packaging : the bottles are ready to receive the label and capsule. Before marketing, the bottles are stored in the cellar at a controlled temperature. Sparkling wines should generally be consumed within 6-18 months after disgorgement.
What is the Martinotti Method?
Until the end of the nineteenth century, the only method for producing sparkling wines was that which involved refermentation in the bottle.
To speed up the production process and reduce high costs, Federico Martinotti (1860-1924) from Asti carried out the second fermentation in an autoclave . Quick and effective, this method allows us to obtain sparkling wines that are ready to drink and, in some cases, with high residual sugar (sweet), maintaining the fruity and aromatic characteristics of the grapes used.
The method is also known as the Charmat method because in 1910 Eugéne Charmat patented it , having built the necessary equipment for its realization.
Here's how a Martinotti method sparkling wine is produced in 5 steps:
- Basic wine assembly : we start with still white wine obtained from pressing and alcoholic fermentation of the grapes.
- Clarification : to make the wine stable. The wine is not discolored, but more precisely stabilized in order to eliminate all the sediments and debris that make it cloudy.
- Second fermentation : unlike the Classic Method, it is carried out in a stainless steel autoclave . This is a very rapid refermentation. According to EU regulations, the time between the start of fermentation and marketing cannot be less than 30 days.
- Racking and filtration : the sparkling wine is transferred to another autoclave, in isobaric conditions, i.e. overpressure, to avoid losses of carbon dioxide.
- Capping : it is made with corks similar to those of Classic Method sparkling wines, while for those of lower quality, intended for rapid consumption, plastic corks can also be used.
With the Martinotti Method (i.e. the one that does the second fermentation in an autoclave) light and fruity sparkling wines are obtained, in a word: carefree. Prosecco is among these. Ideal consumption? The aperitif.
With the Classic Method (which ferments in the bottle, it is the method with which Champagne is made) more structured wines are obtained, with smaller and more persistent bubbles. The long refinements give complex aromas, including the hint of yeasts (the famous bread crust). Ideal consumption? Bubbles like this are also suitable for drinking throughout the meal, not just for excellent toasts.
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