Saturday, May 28, 2016

Sparkling Wines: Charmat vs. Metodo Classico Method

It's Memorial Day weekend and is a perfect time to celebrate the warm weather that is upon us or if you're me you're less than 5 weeks to delivering your first born. All perfect reasons to celebrate with some sparkling wine (like we need one!)


If you're a lover of Italian sparkling wine you may or may not be familiar with the differences in some of the different varieties of sparkling wines produced throughout Italy. We're going to learn today why some of these differences exist. It's mainly because there are two styles of producing sparkling Italian wines: the charmat method and the metodo classico.
Sparkling wines of Italy
Photo by Bill Masson
The Charmat Method
The charmat method was created back in 1895 by a gentleman, Federico Martinotti, an enologist from the town of Asti in Piedmont, Italy. It was then adjusted in 1907 by Eugene Charmat, hence the Charmat method. With the Charmat method the secondary fermentation that is normally done in the bottle is done in large stainless steel tanks. This allows for higher production quantity and is a cheaper style of sparkling wine production. The charmat method produces sparkling wines that are more aromatic.

Examples of Charmat wines
Examples of sparkling wines produced in Italy with the charmat method are lambrusco of emilia romagna, prosecco of the Veneto, and Asti of Piedmont.

Metodo Classico
The sparkling wines made from the champenoise method are typically more complex. During this process the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle as mentioned earlier with additional yeasts and sugar added. Those yeasts take the sugar and convert them over to acohol and carbon dioxide, the bubbles! Following that the wine will age on the dead yeast cells known as the lees for 24 months.
Charmat vs Classic method sparkling wines
Examples of Metodo Classico
Some examples of Italian sparkling wines made in Italy with the metodo classico are from the Franciacorta D.O.C.G and those of the Oltrepo Pavese Metodo Classico D.O.C.G and Oltrepo Pavese Pinot Nero Metodo Classico D.O.C.G from Lombardia Lastly, the sparkling wines from the Trento D.O.C in the Trentino Alto Adige region also produce the metodo classico. Most of these wines are made with variations of chardonnay, pinot nero and pinot bianco.

One of the biggest differences, other than the taste and complexity of these two methods, is the consistency of the bubbles, or bollicini. Since the process of a classic method takes a long time you tend to get smaller, more consistent bubbles where those of the charmat method are bigger bubbles.

What are some of your Italian sparkling favorites?