Your Favorite Bubbly, Deconstructed

Ever wonder what makes Franciacorta stand out from other sparkling wines? Or why there seems to be so much variation between different types of bubbly – from carbonation level to flavor profile to price?

Sparkling wine might be the most technical of all wine styles, so the folks at Wine Folly have created this helpful guide to sparkling wine. As they tell it, there are no fewer than six methods of sparkling wine production, each resulting in a different style of bubbly. Check out their list, and wow your friends with your expert sparkling wine knowledge:

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

Of those six methods, the most widely used are the Traditional Method, called Metodo Classico in Italian, and the Tank Method, also called Metodo Italiano or the Charmat Method.

The Tank Method is the method typically used to make three of the most common Italian sparkling wines – Prosecco, Moscato d’Asti, and Lambrusco. In this process, sugar and yeast are added to base wines in a large tank. The wine undergoes a secondary fermentation as the added yeasts turn the sugars into CO2; the wine is then filtered, any desired dosage (the winemaker’s own mixture of wine and sugar) is added, and finally the wine is bottled. This method tends to produce wines with coarse bubbles, fruity and floral notes, and sometimes strong yeast flavors. It is an easier process to complete than the Metodo Classico, and thus produces wines at a lower price point.

In contrast, Metodo Classico, which is the process used to make Franciacorta, carries higher production costs. The fundamental difference is that the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottles rather than in tanks, and is considered the source of the highest quality sparkling wines.

traditional-method-champenoise-sparkling-wine-champagne

As sommelier and wine writer Cindy Swain wrote recently in WineTourist Magazine, this process has a palpable impact on the sensory experience of Franciacorta: “Two other main differences between the two styles are the bubbles and the aromas. The Charmat Method produces sparkling wines with larger, coarser bubbles and primary aromas that are fruity and floral. A Classic Method wine yields a fine perlage, or tiny strings of bubbles, and the long aging process creates complexities in the wine that go beyond primary aromas to tertiary aromas of butter, nuts and brioche.”

To receive the distinction of the DOCG appellation, Franciacorta has to adhere to additional production standards. Swain writes, “Unlike many other Italian sparkling wines, the Franciacorta DOCG—the highest level of Italian wine classification—requires that all grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a limited amount of Pinot Blanc) are hand-harvested and aged on the lees and in the bottle for a minimum of 18 months for non-vintage wines, 24 months for rosé and satèn, 30 months for the vintage “millesimato” and 60 months for the wines marked riserva. Because of the limited production numbers and rigorous production methods, the price point of Franciacorta is relatively high…”

This underscores the importance of understanding what distinguishes Franciacorta from other styles of sparkling wine! Barone Pizzini is further distinguished by being the first Franciacorta to switch to organic production, putting it at the top of an already elite category of sparkling wine makers.

 

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