Sparkling wine terminology can be really confusing!
Ancestral method, know as méthode ancestrale, “sometimes called méthode artisanale or méthode rurale,” according to the Oxford Companion to Wine, “very traditional and newly fashionable way of making a lightly sparkling, wine, usually with some residual sugar and, often, some sediment.”
“It involves bottling young wines before all the residual sugar has been fermented into alcohol. Fermentation continues in bottle and gives off carbon dioxide.”
By the way, we highly recommend both the Oxford Companion to Wine and Jancis Robinson’s Purple Pages online tasting notes archive and magazine where you can also find the entire Oxford Companion to Wine online (with a built-in search engine that makes it very easy to use).
So that’s the basic definition of this ancient “ancestral” approach to sparkling winemaking.
As Luca likes to put it, the old folks used to add some sugar to the wines to make them less bitter (in a time before modern winemaking technology was readily available). As a result they would re-ferment in bottle.
The wines we call col fondo are just one expression of the ancestral method.
The ancestral method is indeed a traditional method of sparkling winemaking.
But we have to be careful not to call it “traditional method” because the expression “traditional method” has a particular meaning in sparkling wine parlance.
Because only Champagne producers can use the words champagne method or méthode champenoise to describe their wines (because the term refer to the place itself), the European Union adopted the expressions “classic method” and “traditional method” to denote wines made using the same method outside of Champagne.
It’s confusing, we know! But it’s important to make the distinction so that we share the correct information.
Bele Casel makes an ancestral method (col fondo) wine and a classic range of Martinotti method (also known as Charmat method) wines.
Thanks for reading!