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.