Italian Sparkling Wine: All About Bubbles
A Guide to the Sparkling Wines of Italy
Champagne, Franciacorta, Spumante, Cava, Prosecco … whichever you prefer, there is never a bad time for a glass of bubbly. But have you ever stopped and wondered how bubbles got in there? Read our guide to Italy’s sparkling wines to find out how they are made and what you should be drinking.
How is it made?
There are two main methods for making sparkling wine which are:
CLASSIC METHOD, also known as Mèthod Champenoise, Methode Traditionelle, or Metodo Classico is responsible for giving us the bubbles in Champagne, Italian Franciacorta, and Trento DOC, among others.
CHARMANT or MARTINOTTI METHOD (also Italian Method) is mostly used in creating the bubbles in Prosecco and Asti.
Let’s start off by saying that anything that has bubbles undergoes 2 fermentations. The first one to produce the base wine with its alcohol and then a second fermentation that is triggered with a cocktail called “liqueur de tirage” (sugar and yeasts).
In this second fermentation, yeast converts sugar into alcohol hence naturally producing carbon dioxide. When this happens in a sealed and closed environment that leaves no space for the CO2 to escape…voilà you have your bubbles!
In the Classic method, the process usually takes place in 750 ml bottles. It is a very elaborate procedure that can last anything from 15 months to 10 years. The bottles are gradually turned (remouage or riddling) until the dead yeast cells (lees) fall to the neck of the bottle. Then the neck is frozen, the lee is removed, another secret cocktail “liqueur d’expèdition” is added (depending on the producer) and then they are capped and ready to enjoy.
In the Charmant method, this second fermentation takes place in a large pressurized tank. The whole procedure is much simpler and faster.
Different bubbles, different aromas, different texture, different wines…which do you prefer?
The Classic Method usually produces longer-lasting bubbles, while the Charmat method is known for larger and more powerful bubbles.
Italian sparkling wines to try
The production of sparkling wine in this area dates back to 1961. A young man had a dream. He wanted to make bubbles as the French did in a region that, up until then, only produced still wine. Since then, the area of Franciacorta (Province of Brescia in Lombardy) has produced pure excellence using the Classic Method. Chardonnay, Pinot Nero & Pinot Bianco are the only grape varieties permitted in the production of Franciacorta D.O.C.G.
Probably the oldest of the Italian bubbles; the first production can be traced back to 1850. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, and Meunier provide the base wine that, through the metodo classico, becomes Trento D.O.C.
A real crowd-pleaser, this fresh, fruity, aromatic bubble has gained fame in nearly every country in the world. It is made with a grape variety called Glera and it is produced in the Veneto, a region in northwest Italy.
The highest quality prosecco is produced in a sub-region called Valdobbiadene so this is the one to pick if you want to indulge and treat yourself.
This sparkling red wine is produced in Emilia-Romagna. Even though it’s been around since the Roman times, this red grape is rarely appreciated outside its home region. It pairs wonderfully with mortadella so if you are in the area, do give it a try!
There is only one grape that is used to make this Italian classic, and it’s the Moscato grape. The result is a very aromatic and sweet sparkling wine, perfect with desserts.
Learn more about Italian sparkling wine on our Prosecco, Spumante & Bubbles Tasting in Rome. Join an expert sommelier and taste three delicious bubbly wines accompanied by delicious local specialties.