“Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!” – Dom Perignon, at the moment he discovered champagne.
We all know the feeling that the Champagne master Dom Perignon experienced, the absolute delight that is a glass (or bottle) of sparkling…but just how do they get those bubbles in there?
Let’s look at the five methods of sparkling wine.
Traditional Method a.k.a. Méthode Champenoise or Méthode Traditionnelle
Example – Champagne
Arguably the most appreciated method for sparkling wine production in terms of quality, and at the same time it is also the most costly in terms of production. The most important facet of the traditional method is that the transformation from a still to a sparkling wine occurs entirely inside the bottle.
Tank Method a.k.a. Charmat Method
Example – Prosecco
The major difference between the tank method and the traditional method is the removal of the individual bottle as the vessel used to turn a still wine into a sparkling one. Instead, base wines are added together with the sugar and yeast mixture (Tirage) into a large tank. As the wine has a second fermentation, the CO2 released from the fermentation causes the tank to pressurize, whereafter wines are then filtered, dosed (with Expedition liqueur) and bottled without aging.
Transfer Method a.k.a. Transversage
Examples – Small format (187 ml) and large format (3L+) Traditional Method sparkling wines
This method is identical to the Traditional method except that wines need not be riddled and disgorged in the same manner. Instead, the bottles are emptied into a pressurized tank and sent through pressurized filters to remove the dead yeast bits (lees). Then, the wines are bottled using pressurized fillers. You’ll find this method used most commonly for non-standard sized bottles (splits or jerobaum and above).
Ancestral Method a.k.a. Méthode Ancestrale or Pétillant Naturel
Example – Pet-Nat
This method of sparkling wine production uses icy temperatures (and filteration) to pause the fermentation mid-way for a period of months and then wines are bottled and the fermentation finishes, trapping the CO2 in the bottle. When the desired level of CO2 is reached, wines are chilled again, riddled and disgorged just like the traditional method, but no expedition liqueur (sugar) is added. The technique is referred to as the Ancestral Method because it’s assumed that this is one of the earliest forms of sparkling winemaking.
Carbonation a.k.a. Gas Injection or Industrial Method
The carbonation method simply takes a still wine and carbonates in a pressurized tank. This method does not involve initiating a secondary fermentation but rather injecting carbon dioxide gas directly into the wine. This method produces large bubbles that quickly dissipate. While it’s possible that this method has benefits, at the moment the only carbonated wines are lower quality bulk wines.
Our Saddler’s Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir is made using the Charmat or Tank Method. This modern Australian bottle fermented sparkling wine displays aromas of fresh zesty citrus, with a hint of strawberry supported by a palate driven by fruit and yeast complexities, lifted by a rich lemon butter character from malolactic fermentation and time spent on lees during tirage. Ideal as an aperitif or any celebration.