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Home / Wine guide / Sparkling Wine Guide - Sparkling winemaking

Sparkling Wine Guide - Sparkling winemaking


Sparkling wine might just be the most technical of all wines in the world–even if it is so easy to drink!

Champagne, Prosecco, Cava, Sparkling wine - it is the bubbliest time of the year. But how does sparkling wine actually become sparkling? There are a few different options, and each one can create a remarkably different style of beverage.

The key differentiator is secondary fermentation. By adding a mixture of yeast, sugar, and wine called the liqueur de tirage in a closed environment, still wines become effervescent.

Since sparkling wines were first introduced (starting in the mid 1500’s), several processes have been developed and each result in a unique sub-style of sparkling wine.

There are 6 major methods by which sparkling wines are produced, each resulting in a different carbonation level and, ultimately, a different style of bubbly!

  • Traditional Method
  • Tank Method
  • Transfer Method
  • Ancestral Method
  • Continuous Method
  • Carbonation


Sparkling wines have different pressure levels which affect our perception of their taste. The higher the pressure, the finer the bubbles. Here are some accepted terms for sparkling wine in terms of bubble pressure:

  • Beady: a wine bottled with <1 additional atmosphere of pressure (14.7 psi). Bubbles appear on the sides of the bottle (or glass) when the wine is opened.
  • Semi-Sparkling: (a.k.a. Frizzante, Spritzig, Pétillant, Pearl) a wine with 1–2.5 atmospheres (14.7–37 psi) of pressure that is slightly sparkling.
  • Sparkling: (a.k.a. Mousseux, Cremant, Espumoso, Sekt, Spumante) The EU has deemed that bubbly wines with 3 or more atmospheres can be labeled as sparkling.


Champagne method (Traditional method)

So-called: Methode Champenoise, methode traditionnelle, Methode Cap Classique, Metodo Classico, klassische flaschengarung

Examples: Cava, Champagne, Cremant, some Sekt, Italian Metodo Classico wines (including Franciacorta and Trento)

Bottle Pressure: 5–7 atmospheres, 75–99 psi

The Champagne method, which must legally be called the traditional method outside the Champagne region, is the classic sparkling vinification process. It is generally believed to make the highest-quality, longest-lived, most complex sparkling wines in the world. It is also generally the most expensive, labor-intensive, and time-consuming.

The traditional method requires a secondary fermentation to take place inside the bottle in which the wine will be sold, which is temporarily capped after the liqueur de tirage is added to the base wine. When the yeasts have finished working, they die and become lees. The lees remain in contact with the sparkling wine until removed by the winemaker, creating texture, richness, and complexity in a wine. This is why certain regions have a minimum lees-aging requirement for their wines.

Before corking the final bottling, winemakers will remove the lees sediment by a process called riddling. They invert the bottle until the sediment sits in its upside-down neck and can be frozen. When the temporary cap is removed, the bottle’s pressure forces the sediment out, at which point a mixture of sugar and wine called dosage is added, along with a final cork.

Even though there are cheaper and easier ways to make bubbly, winemakers invest in the traditional method because it produces such high-quality sparkling wines. Outside Champagne, top traditional method wines include Cava, Franciacorta, and Cremant.

Midalidare Sparkling wines are made under the Traditional sparkling winemaking - Midalidare Sparkling Gold, Midalidare Sparkling Brut, Midalidare Sparkling Blanc de Blancs.

Tank method

So-called: Charmat Method, Metodo Italiano, Cuvee Close, autoclave

Examples: Prosecco, Lambrusco

Bottle Pressure: 2–4 atmospheres, 30–60 psi

Named for its inventor, the Charmat Method is a less expensive way of sparkling wine. It’s also called the tank method, which alludes to the secondary fermentation location. Rather than separating and fermenting each bottle individually, the liqueur de tirage is added to a pressurized tank of still wine, which undergoes secondary fermentation en masse. When the yeasts die, or when the winemaker decides to stop fermentation by cooling the tank, the wine is filtered and bottled without extended lees contact. Rather than emphasizing richness and complexity, the tank method enhances clean fruit and aromatics, making wines that are youthful and easy-drinking. The most famous Charmat method sparklers come from Prosecco.


Transfer method

So-called:  Transversage*

Examples: Small format (187 ml) and large format (3L+) Traditional Method sparkling wines

Bottle Pressure: 5–7 atmospheres, 75–99 psi

The transfer method is a hybrid of the traditional and tank methods, borrowing pieces from each. These sparkling wines begin just like traditional-method sparklers, with secondary fermentation taking place inside a bottle. Then, the wines are emptied into a pressurized tank, their sediment filtered off, and packaged into new bottles. This allows a sparkling wine to gain the benefits of lees-aging without the expense or time of riddling and disgorgement. The transfer method is commonly used for unusual sizes of bubbly that would otherwise be made in the traditional method.

* Transversage method is slightly different than transfer method in that wines are riddled and disgorged into tanks and do not require the filtration step.


Ancestral method

So-called: Methode Ancestrale, Methode Rurale, Pétillant Naturel (a.k.a. “Pet-nat”)

Examples: Loire, Jura

Bottle Pressure: 2–4 atmospheres, 30–60 psi

The oldest sparkling winemaking method of all, the fittingly named ancestral method has recently regained popularity among the wine trade as the method used to create pétillant-naturel, or pét-nat. Secondary fermentation does not occur for the ancestral method; rather, a fermenting wine is transferred from tank to bottle before the first fermentation is complete, where it finishes fermenting under cork or, more commonly, cap. Some disgorge and rebottle ancestral-method sparkling wines after fermentation is complete, but many today elect not to, resulting in a cloudy, earthy, textured wine.

Methode Diose Ancestrale: This variant of the Ancestral Method empties the wines into a pressurized tank and filters instead of riddling and disgorging.


Continuous method

So-called: Russian Method

Bottle Pressure: 4–5 atmospheres, 60–75 psi

The process gets the name from a continual addition of yeast into pressurized tanks thereby making it possible to increase the total pressure to 5 atmospheres (or as much as most Champagne). Wines are then moved into another tank with yeast enrichments (sometimes wood shavings) which the dead yeast bits attach to and float around in the wine. This gives the wines a similar-tasting autolytic character to the traditional method. Finally, the wines move into the last set of pressurized tanks where the yeasts and enrichments are settled out, leaving the wine relatively clear.

All in all, the process takes about a month. At the moment, there are not many producers who use the continual method save for a couple of large companies in Germany and Portugal (and Russia).



So-called: Gas Injection, Industrial Method

Bottle Pressure: 3 atmospheres, 45 psi

The carbonation method simply takes a still wine and carbonates in a pressurized tank. While it’s possible that this method has benefits, at the moment the only carbonated wines are lower quality bulk wines. Carbonation is generally considered to be an inferior method of making sparkling wine, as the bubbles will dissipate quickly.


All articles on "Sparkling Wine Guide":

Other articles on "Wine Guide":

Midalidare’s grape varieties: Merlot in a nutshell

Wine & Glass pairing: Red wine glasses - Cabernet/Merlot Glass

Sources: WinefollyVinepair


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