Summer is hot, important parties toast with sparkling wine ... .but how do you choose between Charmat and Champenois?
To begin, I will briefly bore you with the story :). The first sparkling wines appeared in France in the 1600s in the Champagne area. Legend says that it was invented by Dom Pierre Perignon, but even if the historical reality does not coincide with the myth, I like to think that this great name is still the grand master of this ancient art of bubbles.
The world of bubbles owes everything to the champagne winemakers who have refined and made famous the champenois method, which remains among the best products in the world.
Nowadays, sparkling wine technologies have improved and diversified, so rules have been given to identify the different winemaking systems. I will mention only the two main ones and the characteristics without boring you with obsolete and artificial systems. We speak only of wines that follow natural processes!
Therefore EU legislation defines sparkling wines for all wines that are higher than 3 Bars and two main categories: the champenois method (Classic Method in Italy) or the Charmat Method or (Martinotti in Italy).
In both cases we start from the normal principles of white vinification. So, harvest, pressing, fermentation in tanks (wood, steel, cement are then chosen for each individual winemaker). Once the main fermented base has been obtained with very low alcohol levels, in favor of acidity, they are then subjected to the second natural refermentation that may be the champenois method or the charmat method.
METHOD CLASSIC or CHAMPENOISE
This is the oldest method, where the firm base, of which we spoke before, is put directly in the bottle to create those gushing bubbles and characteristic aromas of this complex and vigorous wine. In fact, inside the bottle is inserted the "Liqueur de Tirage", which is composed of wine-base, sugar (cane), yeasts (indigenous or selected), and also the addition of minerals.
Once this bottling process is finished (the "champagnotte" bottles are particular to withstand the internal pressure), the bottles are normally placed in the underground cellars with the perfect balance of temperature / humidity / light / vibrations / noises (even the noise influences the wine!!!!) and let it sit for a long time.
To be certified as sparkling wine, the wines age for at least 15 months (champagne) or 18 months (Franciacorta). Normally, after such a complicated process there is no quality champenois method that is under 24 months.
In these months, frothing takes place. Then the second fermentation takes place in the bottle which is very slow and delicate. Try to imagine having 10 thousand fermentations in the cellar! A colossal job! The exhaustion of the fermentation process in the bottle of the champenois method does not however determine the conclusion of the work, but the beginning of a great refinement.
In fact, for Autolysis processes (I will not explain it on a technical level otherwise I would have to write a book :) ) the yeast cells break, slowly releasing the assimilated substances and also their own, giving the typical aromaticity of the champenois methods.
Imagine the bread or pizza! The procedure is the same: The yeast makes the loaf grow thanks to the addition of sugar or barley. However, if the fermentation lasts for an hour we will have more delicate and easy aromas. If fermented, like the best Neapolitan pizzerie for more than 72 hours, the complexity increases and the quality of the dough also increases. Think of wine as the same thing ... but in years!
called remuage is performed, but I personally define the magic ritual of the champenois methods. Placed in Pupitre (wooden trestles with shaped holes) they are once a day rotated 45 ° by the skilled hands of the cellars. This process and long days, separate the residues of the yeasts from time to time. When the bottle in this process arrives in a vertical position, the "bottom" is completely in the neck of the bottle ready to be turned out; "La Glace".
We drink a wine without lees, transparent and bright. In the first Champenois methods, instead, they were drunk with the lees (even now you can find them: it's called ancestral method that some producers are back doing again).
Why? When the wines are clean?
Because it is the result of the elimination of residues by disgorging. Once in a vertical position with the residues on the neck, the bottle is immersed on a saturated solution of salts at -28 C ° which freezes the final part of the wine.
Once the neck is frozen, the bottle is uncorked and thanks to the pressure of the bubbles it blows the frozen part made up of the wine lees. FANTASTIC!
But we lost some liquid! Yes, in fact after this process the bottle is not "full" of wine, then we work with a filling of the bottle with the dosage syrup (liquere de expedition), whose composition is secret for each producer.
The liquerre de expedition not only serves to fill but also to determine the sugar level that will then be indicated in the bottle!
Imagine that influence has all this process (which I tried to simplify as much as possible) in the taste of wine. In fact, returning to the main topic, I recommend this wine for special occasions. With plates of shellfish, oysters or raw meat. Desserts like puff pastry or tiramisu. And also to put it in the cellar to rest and open for many years!
METHOD CHARMAT or MARTINOTTI
This quick and effective method allows to obtain fruity, aromatic and fresh wines suitable for all meals, for hot days and fresh aperitifs.
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An all-Italian method, devised by Martinotti who had the idea of making the second fermentation and sparkling in large containers that we now call Autoclave.
We always start from the base wine that ends the first fermentation, but here the wine is normally also clarified and filtered.
Meanwhile, in the container "Autoclave" we are preparing the pied de cuve, ie sugars, yeasts, mineral salts and adjuvants that will be the basis of the second fermentation. Moreover, unlike the champenois method we determine the sugar content (brut, extra dry, etc) in this fermentation phase.
We move the base in this autoclave, which once in contact with the pied de cuve, gives rise to the charmat method. This highly complex, hermetic autoclave with advanced technological devices ensures that the second fermentation retains the carbon dioxide created by the fermentation process.
The process is normally short, the EU law requires a minimum of 30 days, but in quality wines this process lasts at least 60/90 days.
There are other variations that you can find in our shop: Vulcano Durello which instead has a 16-month fermentation in the autoclave giving a greater complexity to the wine. This process is called "Long Charmat".
Once the fermentation is over we can go to the bottling, which is very delicate by the fact that we cannot lose atmospheric pressure. So for quality wines a cooling is preferred, almost close to 0 (Celsius) of these charmat sparkling wines!
Now that you know the difference between the two methods and the various combinations ... Which one do you like best? Let us know :)