Today, we call it the Charmat method. But is it more properly called the Martinotti-Charmat method?
By the end of the 1800s, the discoveries of Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) had radically changed the way wine was understood. The fact that he essentially created the field of microbiology and was the first to identify yeast as the key agent in fermentation, i.e., the conversion of sugar into alcohol, launched the new science of wine.
When he first announced and published his major findings in the 1850s, sparkling wine was already being made on a large scale in Champagne. And by the end of the century, one of the pioneers of sparkling wine science, Frenchman Edme-Jules Maumené (1818-1898), was already experimenting with methods for accelerating the classic method or Champagne method of sparkling wine production.
The idea was to reduce the amount of time it took to achieve effervescence, which, was extremely time-consuming in a world without temperature-controlled fermentation where sparkling wine was produced exclusively in bottle.
It’s believed that Maumené was the first to experiment with second fermentation provoked in a large vessel rather than a bottle.
And it’s really he who invented the process by developing a bung and other apparatuses that allowed him to seal and pressurize the fermentation vessel.
But it was Italian Federico Martinotti (1860-1924), a Piedmontese, who first applied for a patent for a pressurized fermentation apparatus.
And then it was a Frenchman, Eugène Charmat, who patented a new model of pressurized stainless steel vat for the production of sparkling wine in 1907.
This is at least what I can find on the internets.
When it comes to Charmat on the internets, there are many variations of his name (he’s more frequently called Auguste Charmat). And nowhere can I find his year of birth and year of death.
I believe that his name was Eugène because there are English-language documents that show him to be the owner of the patent for a process for “decanting sparkling wine and other fermented drinks.”
The bottomline is that it was most likely Maumené who discovered a method for the production of sparkling wine in pressurized vessels. Martinotti most likely refined the process and applied it on a commercial scale in northwestern Italy (where Moscato and Malvasia were probably the first wines produced as such). And it was Charmat who designed and patented the pressurized tanks that would become the standard for the production of closed tank sparkling wine production.
To be continued…