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Champagne

Other Sparkling Wines

  • The traditional method used to produce sparkling wine in Champagne is used around the world. Other methods can be employed in sparkling wine production, such as transfer or the Charmat methods, but the traditional method is the most well regarded, just as Champagne is the most lauded sparkling wine.

    The method used to make sparkling wine in Champagne is referred to as méthode champenoise. This method is used in making sparkling wines all over the world, but tends to be referred to as the traditional method or méthode traditionelle in order to avoid confusion between Champagne and other sparkling wines.


    Crémant
    Sparkling wine made in French regions other than Champagne, including Crémant de Bourgogne, Crémant de Loire, Crémant de Alsace, Mousseux, etc., are all made in the méthode traditionelle.


    Other Regions
    Cava from Spain is one example of sparkling wine made in the traditional method, but cava is made with different grapes; Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada. These grapes produce a wine that tastes very different from Champagne.

    In Germany, the best Sekt, or sparkling wine, is made in the traditional method, but most are made by the Charmat method in vat. Australia, NZ and CA all make a wide range of quality sparkling wines using several methods.

    Traditionally, Lambrusco, from Italy’s Emilia Romagna region was also made using the traditional method, but in the past 30 years, many large-scale producers have relied on the Charmat system and some even use carbonation. Elsewhere in Italy, Prosecco is made with the Glera grape and the Charmat method resulting in an inexpensive, sweet sparkling wine.


    Traditional method sparkling wines from California are referred to as CM/CV, or Classic Methods/Classic Varieties. Many California producers make sparkling wine using the traditional Champagne grapes, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier as well. These wines are regarded for their finesse and elegance.

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  • Important factors that separate Champagne from other sparkling wines are the soil, climate, grape selection and length of aging, as described in the section on Champagne winemaking. The unique legislation in Champagne that limits the amount pressed from each load of grapes also contributes to the delicacy and elegance of this wine.

    Sparkling wines are judged in part on the finesse (size) and number of bubbles. The Traditional Method is the most successful in developing a fine, persistent sparkle in the wine.

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  • An alternative to the Traditional Method is the transfer method in which the base wine is mixed with yeast and sugar and then bottled. At the end of the secondary fermentation, the wine is transferred to pressurized tanks, filtered, dosed and bottled under pressure. This method is widely used for Sekt in Germany, as well as in parts of France and Italy. In some styles, such as Asti, the fermentation is halted while the wine still has some residual sugar, eliminating the need for dosage.

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  • In the Charmat method, secondary fermentation takes place in a pressurized tank. The tank is chilled to stop the fermentation when the pressure from the second fermentation reaches 5 atmospheres. It is then filtered and bottled. This method is easier and less labor intensive than the traditional method. Many Lambruscos are made this way, as are Prosecco, Sekt and Asti. Interaction with the yeast is much less than in comparison to the Traditional Method and the process creates a wine that tends to have harsher bubbles and requires a good bit of sugar to be added.

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  • Continuous Method
    In the continuous method, wine passes through a series of interconnected tanks, during which secondary fermentation takes place. This process takes about 4–6 weeks.


    Carbonation
    Some of the least expensive sparkling wines are produced using carbonation or by directly injecting CO2. This method gives the least satisfactory mousse.

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