File under “sparkling wine production”

Above: Racks for “riddling” classic method wines at Lini. In this and upcoming posts, we are going to look at sparkling wine production terminology and methods.

In today’s world of heightened wine awareness, knowledge, and education, it’s regrettable that there is still so much misinformation on the internets about sparkling wine production.

One of the best and most useful posts we found in our search for well-informed and well-written explanations of the different methods employed for sparkling wine production was “How Sparkling Wine is Made” on the excellent (and wildly popular) wine blog Wine Folly.

We highly recommend it to you. Beyond the introduction to Christie’s World Encyclopedia of Champagne & Sparkling Wine, edited by Tom Stevenson, it’s probably the most comprehensive introduction to sparkling wine production (and it’s free to access).

All of sparkling wine is made by provoking a second fermentation of the wine in a pressurized environment. Sparkling wine gets its fizziness from CO2, a natural by-product of fermentation. When fermentation takes place in an unpressurized environment, that CO2 escapes and the resulting wine is still (in other words, not sparkling). When fermentation takes place in a pressurized environment, the CO2 is captured.

Lini makes sparkling wine using two different methods.

The first is (properly) known as the “tank method.” This is sometimes called the “Charmat method” after the name of a man who patented technology for autoclaves or pressurized vats used in sparkling wine production. Many think he invented it. In fact, it was not invented but perfected by an Italian named Martinotti (it was invented by a producer of Champagne). In Italy, it’s often called the Martinotti method. But for our purposes here on the Lini blog, we should call it the tank method because that best describes the process.

(See this post on the origins of the Charmat or tank method.)

The second is the classic method — a term that causes a lot of confusion. The classic method calls for the wines to undergo their second fermentation in bottle, a process perfected by winemakers in Champagne where it is called the méthode champenoise or “Champagne method.” Because European Union regulations prohibit anyone outside of the Champagne region from using the term, European winemakers use the term classic method or traditional method.

The qualifiers “classic” and “traditional” can be misleading. In upcoming posts, we are going to look at both the terminology and the processes they denote.

Stay tuned…

Above: A early prototype for what would come known as the “tank method.” Some people call the “tank method” the “Charmat method.” Others call it the “Martinotti method.” Here’s some background on how the tank method was developed (by our English-language blogger, wine writer and educator Jeremy Parzen). It’s part of our ongoing series on sparkling wine production.

By the end of the 1800s, the discoveries of Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) had radically changed the way wine was understood. The fact that he essentially created the field of microbiology and was the first to identify yeast as the key agent in fermentation, i.e., the conversion of sugar into alcohol, launched the new science of wine.

When he first announced and published his major findings in the 1850s, sparkling wine was already being made on a large scale in Champagne. And by the end of the century, one of the pioneers of sparkling wine science, Frenchman Edme-Jules Maumené (1818-1898), was already experimenting with methods for expediting the classic method or Champagne method of sparkling wine production.

The idea was to reduce the amount of time it took to achieve effervescence, which, was extremely time-consuming in a world without temperature-controlled fermentation where sparkling wine was produced exclusively in bottle.

It’s believed that Maumené was the first to experiment with second fermentation provoked in a large vessel rather than a bottle.

And it’s really he who invented the process by developing a bung and other apparatuses that allowed him to seal and pressurize the fermentation vessel.

But it was Italian Federico Martinotti (1860-1924), a Piedmontese, who first applied for a patent for a pressurized fermentation apparatus.

And then it was a Frenchman, Eugène Charmat, who patented a new model of pressurized stainless steel vat for the production of sparkling wine in 1907.

There are many variations of Charmat’s name (he’s more frequently called Auguste Charmat). And nowhere can I find his year of birth and year of death.

I believe that his name was Eugène because there are English-language documents that show him to be the owner of the patent for a process for “decanting sparkling wine and other fermented drinks.”

The bottomline is that it was most likely Maumené who discovered a method for the production of sparkling wine in pressurized vessels. Martinotti most likely refined the process and applied it on a commercial scale in northwestern Italy. And it was Charmat who designed and patented the pressurized tanks that would become the standard for the production of closed tank sparkling wine production.

Jeremy Parzen
Lini blogger

Above: Alicia Lini shows off a classic method wine as it ages in bottle.

Despite the fact that we are living during a global wine renaissance, when there is more information about wine and winemaking available to consumers and professionals than ever before, there is still a lot of confusion regarding sparkling wine production.

Part of our mission here at the Lini Lambrusco USA blog is to help fans of our wines navigate the often complicated landscape of sparkling wine across the world.

So let’s begin with some basics.

Nearly all sparkling wine is made by fermenting the wine twice, the second time in a pressurized environment. CO2 is a natural byproduct of fermentation. And so when you ferment wine in a pressurized environment, the CO2 is captured and it gives the wines their bubbles.

There are two primary methods employed by sparkling winemakers.

tank method

The tank method is often called the Charmat method by English speakers (the name comes from the Frenchman, Eugène Charmat, who patented a new model of pressurized stainless steel vat for the production of sparkling wine in 1907). In Italy, it is also called the Martinotti method after the Italian professor who perfected it in the 20th century.

A still wine is produced, called the “base” wine. It is then re-fermented in pressurized, temperature-controlled vats.

classic method

The classic method is also known as the traditional method. It’s exactly the same as the Champagne method. But in accordance with European law, “Champagne method” can only be used in Champagne, France where the eponymous wines are produced.

A still wine is produced (the base wine). The wine is then re-fermented in bottles.

There’s a lot more to both methods. And between now and New Year’s, we’ll be looking carefully and how sparkling wine is made. But this is a great place to start.

Lini makes both tank method and classic method Lambrusco. And it also produces classic method Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Stay tuned! More sparkling wine education coming your way!

Thanks for being here.