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29/11/2020

Bubble and Fizz

How many ways are there to make a wine fizzy? At least three, plus variations, is the possibly unexpected answer.

The oldest way is to leave the wines fermenting in a cold cellar. When it’s cold enough, fermentation stops; when the weather warms up, the yeasts start working again and the wine becomes slightly fizzy. The wine is bottled with the yeasts and the unfermented sugar, so it’s slightly sweet and quality can be variable.

The second method is usually attributed to the monk Dom Perignon and is known as the traditional (or Champagne) method. After the alcoholic fermentation you bottle the wine, adding sugar and yeast to cause a second fermentation in the bottle. After it, the dead yeasts (the lees) are still there, so gently, over months, the bottle is tilted, shaken and turned until it stands on its head with all the lees down on the cork. You get rid of them by freezing the neck of the bottle, removing the cork so the frozen lees are ejected, then topping up, re-corking, and ageing the result.

That’s how top fizzes are made all over the world: France, Spain, the US, Australia, New Zealand… and, of course, Italy – Franciacorta springs to mind.

This method has its drawbacks for the producer, though, including exploding bottles, the time involved and the number of people or machines required, all of which cost money.

So an Italian called Martinotti invented the tank method in the late 1800s (the credit usually goes to a Frenchman, Charmat, who patented the process in 1907). It’s used for wines that won’t improve with ageing and don’t warrant the high price of the traditional method. The wine has its second fermentation in a pressurised tank, not a bottle, so it’s a faster, simpler process: lees-removal, topping-up and bottling are all done in a batch, and there’s no ageing.

That may sound a bit industrial – but the wines are still good. There’s no point putting bubbles into bad wine, because they show up the faults, so any wine with a big cork and wire closure will have been carefully chosen and made. 

Both Celli’s Brut Nature and PS Winery’s Scapolé ; are made by Martinotti’s method, and they’re both great for drinking whenever you want fizz – any celebration (naturally), mid-morning, pre-dinner aperitif, to partner light food, or as a pick-me-up any time. Let’s face it, you can always find a good reason to pop a cork. And, at less than £14 a pop, why not?!

Don’t forget our competition: order £100-worth of wines by December 18th for a chance to win a bottle of the wonderful Carillon Brunello di Montalcino, worth over £40.