Champagne Method, Charmat Method, Ancestral Method: What’s the difference?

“Champagne” is still often used as a label for wines that have nothing to do with Champage or the Champagne Method.

It always amazes us how much confusion there is about how sparkling wines are made, even amongst wine educators and trade members.

Here’s a little primer.

We also recommend looking at the Wiki entry for Sparkling Wine Production.

And we also HIGHLY recommend checking out the introduction to Tom Stevenson’s World Encyclopedia of Champagne and Sparkling Wine. This is the very BEST place to read up on sparkling wine production.

The over-arching element, fundamental to each of these methods for producing sparkling wine, is that when wine is fermented in a sealed environment, the CO2 created as a byproduct of fermentation creates fizziness in the wine.

Champagne Method (used on in Champagne, France), Classic Method, Traditional Method

These three terms denote the exact same method for making sparkling wine. But in accordance with EU norms, Champagne Method can only be used in reference to wines made in Champagne, France.

A base wine is made. Sugar and yeast are added to it in bottle to provoke a second fermentation. The wine is sealed in bottle and aged on its lees for an extended period. The bottle is disgorged of its sediment. It can be topped off with sugar (depending on the desired style). It is resealed and then aged before being released.

Italian wines produced using this method: Trento, Franciacorta, Oltrepò Pavese, and many others.

Charmat or Martinotti Method

A base wine is made and then is re-fermented by adding sugar and yeast in temperature-controlled, pressurized vats. It can be topped off with sugar (depending on the desired style). It is then bottled and released.

This method is used to produce wines like Prosecco, Lambrusco, and Moscato d’Asti among many others.

Ancestral Method

The wine is bottled and sealed before its first fermentation has been completed. It is released when the producer decides it has sufficiently evolved.

There are ancestral method winemakers across Italy but their numbers are relatively small. Prosecco is the only category that has emerged where this method has been applied on a larger scale. In the three townships that make up the Prosecco DOCG — Asolo, Conegliano, and Valdobbiadene — the wines produced using the ancestral method are known as Prosecco col fondo.

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