How is sparkling wine produced?

Sparkling wine contains carbon dioxide coming from the fermentation. It is dissolved in the

wine thanks to a hermetic closure of the bottle and will be released when opening the

bottle. Here are 4 methods to produce sparkling wines:

1. The traditional method

This is the most appreciated method in terms of quality but also the most expensive one.

It starts with a base wine (not sparkling) to which sugar is added and the wine is bottled.

The second fermentation can now start in the bottle and the process creates CO2 which is

trapped inside the bottle, carbonating the wine. The yeast dies and remain in the bottle.

Wines are aged on their lees. The winemaker will put the bottles upside down (riddling) in

order to remove the sediments from the bottle (disgorging). Finally, the last stage is the

« dosage » that consist of adding some wine and sugar to fill the bottle.

This is the method used by most good quality sparkling wines including Champagne and

Cava. Note that Champagne requires a minimum of 15 months of aging and Cava requires a

minimum of 9 months of aging.

2. The Ancestral method

This method is very technical and because it uses the « spontaneous fermentation ». This

method uses icy temperatures to pause the fermentation mid-way for a period of months

and then wines are bottled and the fermentation finishes, trapping the CO2 in the bottle.

When the desired level of CO2 is reached, wines are chilled again, riddled and disgorged just

like the traditional method, but no sugar is added.

3. The Tank method

In this method, base wines are added together with the sugar and yeast mixture (tirage)

into a large tank. As the wine has a second fermentation, the CO2 released from the

fermentation causes the tank to pressurize. Wines are then filtered, dosed and bottled

without aging. The main difference with the traditional method is that the 2nd fermentation

is not made in the bottle. This is the main method used to produce Prosecco.

4. The Transfer method

This method is similar to the Traditional method as the 2nd fermentation takes place in the

bottle as well but at the end of this 2nd fermentation bottles are emptied into a pressurized

tank and sent through pressurized filters to remove the lees. Finally, the wines are re-bottled.


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