HAPPY almost NEW YEAR! 2018 is creeping up, which means that my mouth is starting to water—in anticipation of the bubbly wines I will be enjoying on New Year’s Eve. Bubbles, celebration, and luxury are synonymous due to some genius marketing by the folks in Champagne, creating a timeless tradition of partying by POPping a cork. Their marketing is so good, in fact, that the name Champagne is used to describe almost all bubbly wines. But this is problematic. Calling all bubbly wines Champagne is like calling all rock music The Beatles. Rock music isn’t The Beatles unless John, Paul, George, and Ringo are the ones who write and perform the song, just like bubbly wine isn’t Champagne unless it’s made in the traditional method. The good news is that sparkling wine, like rock music, is full of diversity, and there are many different delicious options to explore. There are six major methods by which sparkling wines are made, but today we’ll talk about the Charmat Method, the Ancestral Method, and the Traditional Method. Cheers!

 

  CHARMAT METHOD (Bottle Pressure: 2-4 atmospheres [30-60 PSI])    NV Serenello Prosecco Extra Dry   (Treviso, IT)    100% Glera   The tank (aka Charmat) method came about during the early 20th century and is synonymous with Prosecco. In the Charmat method, base wines are added together with the sugar and yeast mixture (tirage) into a large tank. As the wine undergoes a second fermentation, the released CO2 pressurizes the tank, then the wines are filtered, dosed with sugar and bottled without aging. Charmat method wines have a fresh character with strong secondary (yeasty) aromas. The Serenello is a perfect Prosecco example: fresh, floral, fruity, soft texture and a hint of sweetness. Not as serious or intense as a Champagne, but still delicious.        ANCESTRAL METHOD (Bottle Pressure: 2-4 atmospheres [30-60 PSI])    2015 Vigneto San Vito ‘Orsi’ Sui Lieviti Frizzante   (Valsamoggia, CA)    97% Pignoletto, 3% Albana and Riesling   The Ancestral Method uses icy temperatures and filtration to halt the fermentation mid-way for a period of months, after which the wines are bottled, and the fermentation finishes inside the bottle due to the trapped CO2. When the desired level of CO2 is reached, wines are chilled again, riddled and disgorged (just like traditional method) but no 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. Since the secondary fermentation occurs in bottle, those fermentation aromas are still present. As is evident in the Orsi, there’s an old school funk and rich texture that gives it a rustic charm.        TRADITIONAL METHOD   (Bottle Pressure: 5-7 atmospheres [75-100 PSI])    NV Waris-Hubert   À   Avize Pinot Noir Champagne   (Barbonne and Ay, FR)    100% Pinot Noir   The traditional method of sparkling winemaking is the most appreciated method in terms of quality, and at the same time is also the costliest. The transformation from a still to a sparkling wine occurs entirely inside the bottle.    1.   Base Wine or “Cuvée”:  grapes are picked early when full of acid and fermented into a dry wine.    2.   Tirage:  Yeast and sugars are added to the cuvée to start the secondary fermentation, then wines are bottled and topped with crown caps.    3.     2nd Fermentation:  (inside the bottle) The second fermentation adds about 1.3% more alcohol and the process creates CO2, carbonating the wine. The yeasts die in a process called autolysis and remain in the bottle.    4.   Aging:  Wines are aged on their  lees (dead yeast cells)  for a period of time to develop texture. Champagne requires a minimum of 15 months of aging (36 mos for vintage Champage). Most believe the longer the wine ages on its lees, the better.    5.     Riddling:  Clarification occurs by settling the bottle upside down and the dead yeast cells collect in the neck of the bottle.    6.   Disgorging:  Removing sediment from bottle. The bottles are placed upside down into freezing liquid which causes the yeast bits to freeze in the neck of the bottle. The crown cap is then popped off momentarily which allows the frozen chunk of lees to shoot out of the pressurized bottle.    7.   Dosage:  A mixture of wine and sugar is added to fill bottles and then bottles are corked, wired and labeled. This Waris-Hubert is a Blanc de Noirs Champagne, made with 100% Pinot Noir grapes, giving it a ripe strawberry and cream palate to balance with the trademark powerful acidity of Champagne.

CHARMAT METHOD (Bottle Pressure: 2-4 atmospheres [30-60 PSI])

NV Serenello Prosecco Extra Dry (Treviso, IT)

100% Glera

The tank (aka Charmat) method came about during the early 20th century and is synonymous with Prosecco. In the Charmat method, base wines are added together with the sugar and yeast mixture (tirage) into a large tank. As the wine undergoes a second fermentation, the released CO2 pressurizes the tank, then the wines are filtered, dosed with sugar and bottled without aging. Charmat method wines have a fresh character with strong secondary (yeasty) aromas. The Serenello is a perfect Prosecco example: fresh, floral, fruity, soft texture and a hint of sweetness. Not as serious or intense as a Champagne, but still delicious.

 

ANCESTRAL METHOD (Bottle Pressure: 2-4 atmospheres [30-60 PSI])

2015 Vigneto San Vito ‘Orsi’ Sui Lieviti Frizzante (Valsamoggia, CA)

97% Pignoletto, 3% Albana and Riesling

The Ancestral Method uses icy temperatures and filtration to halt the fermentation mid-way for a period of months, after which the wines are bottled, and the fermentation finishes inside the bottle due to the trapped CO2. When the desired level of CO2 is reached, wines are chilled again, riddled and disgorged (just like traditional method) but no 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. Since the secondary fermentation occurs in bottle, those fermentation aromas are still present. As is evident in the Orsi, there’s an old school funk and rich texture that gives it a rustic charm.

 

TRADITIONAL METHOD (Bottle Pressure: 5-7 atmospheres [75-100 PSI])

NV Waris-Hubert À Avize Pinot Noir Champagne (Barbonne and Ay, FR)

100% Pinot Noir

The traditional method of sparkling winemaking is the most appreciated method in terms of quality, and at the same time is also the costliest. The transformation from a still to a sparkling wine occurs entirely inside the bottle. 1. Base Wine or “Cuvée”: grapes are picked early when full of acid and fermented into a dry wine. 2. Tirage: Yeast and sugars are added to the cuvée to start the secondary fermentation, then wines are bottled and topped with crown caps. 3. 2nd Fermentation: (inside the bottle) The second fermentation adds about 1.3% more alcohol and the process creates CO2, carbonating the wine. The yeasts die in a process called autolysis and remain in the bottle. 4. Aging: Wines are aged on their lees (dead yeast cells) for a period of time to develop texture. Champagne requires a minimum of 15 months of aging (36 mos for vintage Champage). Most believe the longer the wine ages on its lees, the better. 5. Riddling: Clarification occurs by settling the bottle upside down and the dead yeast cells collect in the neck of the bottle. 6. Disgorging: Removing sediment from bottle. The bottles are placed upside down into freezing liquid which causes the yeast bits to freeze in the neck of the bottle. The crown cap is then popped off momentarily which allows the frozen chunk of lees to shoot out of the pressurized bottle. 7. Dosage: A mixture of wine and sugar is added to fill bottles and then bottles are corked, wired and labeled. This Waris-Hubert is a Blanc de Noirs Champagne, made with 100% Pinot Noir grapes, giving it a ripe strawberry and cream palate to balance with the trademark powerful acidity of Champagne.