Tag Archives: Charmat

Wine Review: Montelvini, Prosecco di Asolo Superiore Millesimato Extra Dry “Venegazzù” DOCG NV

Disclaimer: this review is of a sample that I received from the producer’s US importer. My review has been conducted in compliance with my Samples Policy and the ISA wine tasting protocol and the opinions I am going to share on the wine are my own.

Montelvini, Asolo Prosecco Superiore Millesimato DOCG Extra DryIt has recently been reported that, in 2013, worldwide sales of Prosecco were for the first time greater than those of Champagne (307 million vs 304 million bottles, respectively – thank you Franklin Liquors for sharing the link to this piece of news).

In spite of such a commercial achievement, if you have been following this blog for a while, you may recall that generally speaking I am not a big fan of Prosecco, with very few exceptions. I just like the extra complexity and structure that is typical of a Classic Method sparkling wine (like Champagne or Franciacorta, for instance) over the simpler, fruitier profile of a Charmat-Martinotti Method sparkler (like Prosecco). If you are not familiar with the two methods, please refer to my previous posts on the Classic Method and on the Charmat-Martinotti Method.

Having said that, I am always happy to try and taste new Prosecco’s to hopefully add new… “exceptions” to my list. So I was excited when representatives of Italian Prosecco producer Montelvini were kind enough to have a couple samples of their premium Prosecco (Montelvini, Prosecco di Asolo Superiore Millesimato Extra Dry “Venegazzù” DOCG NV – $15) delivered to me so I could taste it and possibly review it.

Now, let’s see how it was.

The Bottom Line

OverallI quite liked this Prosecco (despite being slightly irked by its label) and I appreciated its fine perlage, considering that the Charmat-Martinotti Method generally results in bigger bubbles. It is a nice, easy to drink sparkler with an appealing quality-to-price ratio: it has pleasant mouth flavors and mineral hints that make up for its not very complex or intense aromas. It definitely has its place as a Spring-y/Summer-y “cool but not intimidating” 😉 aperitivo.

Rating: Good and  Good – $

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

About the Grape and the Appellation

The main grape variety that is used in the production of the wine Prosecco was called Prosecco Tondo (now Glera) which DNA profiling has shown to be identical to a rare variety that is indigenous to the Istria region of Croatia named Teran Bijeli. This evidence supports the theory of an Istrian origin for the Prosecco/Glera grape variety. Glera is a partly-aromatic white-berried grape variety (grape variety information taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012).

Prosecco wine is made in two Italian DOCG appellations and in one more loosely regulated inter-regional DOC appellation, as follows:

  • Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene (or simply Prosecco di ValdobbiadeneDOCG in the Veneto region, near the town of Treviso;
  • Prosecco dei Colli Asolani (or Prosecco di Asolo) DOCG in the Veneto region, near and including the town of Asolo (this is the appellation of the wine we are reviewing today);
  • Prosecco Spumante DOC, an appellation which covers a vast territory stretching between the regions of Veneto and Friuli.

Montelvini Estate, Asolo

The Montelvini estate in Asolo (image courtesy of Montelvini)

With regard to residual sugar levels, according to applicable regulations, Prosecco spumante wines may be produced in any of the following styles, and therefore except only in the Extra Brut (less than 6 gr/lt of residual sugar) or Sweet (more than 50 gr/lt of residual sugar) versions:

  • Brut (less than 15 gr/lt of residual sugar)
  • Extra Dry (12 to 20 gr/lt of residual sugar)
  • Dry (17 to 35 gr/lt of residual sugar – as in the case of the bottle that we are reviewing)
  • Demi-Sec (33 to 50 gr/lt of residual sugar, which would make it taste quite sweet).

For more detailed information about Prosecco and the Glera grape variety, please refer to our post on the Charmat-Martinotti Method and to the “Glera” entry in our Grape Variety Archive.

About the Producer and the Estate

The Serena family, who owns Montelvini, has been in the wine making business for 130 years in the hilly area surrounding the town of Asolo in Italy’s Veneto region. Nowadays, they manage 35 HA of vineyards in four different estates, with Glera, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon being the most cultivated grapes, accounting in the aggregate for 85% of the total vines, with an average density of 4,500 vines/HA.

Montelvini: Alberto, Sarah and Armando Serena

The Serena family (image courtesy of Montelvini)

The annual production is 3 million bottles, 20% of which are exported to 36 countries. The Montelvini winery accommodates 48 temperature-controlled autoclaves dedicated to the production of Charmat-Martinotti Prosecco sparkling wines.

Our Detailed Review

The wine we are going to review today is Montelvini, Prosecco di Asolo Superiore Millesimato Extra Dry “Venegazzù” DOCG NV, which retails in the U.S. for about $15.

The wine is made from 100% Glera grapes, has 12% ABV, a pressure of 5.6 ATM and comes in the “Extra Dry” variety, with 15 gr/lt residual sugar.

One thing that I did not like is the use of the word “Millesimato” on the label of the wine. In Italian that word refers to the vintage of a wine, particularly a sparkling wine, and is utilized to distinguish a vintage sparkler from a non-vintage one. However, the label of the Prosecco that we are reviewing does not contain any indication of the vintage of the wine, which makes the use of the term “Millesimato” pointless or even potentially misleading. I believe Montelvini should either keep the word “Millesimato” and include the year of the harvest (if their wine is in fact a vintage wine) or drop the use of “Millesimato” altogether if their wine is non-vintage.

Anyway, let’s move on to the actual review of this Prosecco.

As usual, for my review I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

In the glass, the wine was brilliant and pale straw yellow in color. Its bubbles were in the average in number, fine and long-lasting. A very nice perlage.

On the nose, its bouquet was moderately intensemoderately complex and of fair quality, with aromas of apple, white blossoms and hints of tangerine.

In the mouth, it was off-dry, with medium ABV and moderately smooth; it was acidic and tasty. It was medium-bodied and balanced, with intense and fine mouth flavors reminiscent of apples with hints of tangerines and minerals. It had a medium finish and its evolutionary state was mature, meaning: do not cellar, drink now to enjoy its freshness.

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Wine Review: Le Colture, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze Dry DOCG

LeColture, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCGSummer has finally made its way to us, with some delay. So, what is there more refreshing and satisfying than a chilled bottled of foamy bubbles?

Before we even continue, though, I feel I have a confession to make. While I love a glass of good sparkling wine, I am definitely partial to Champagne or anyway to quality Classic Method sparklers, such as a nice Franciacorta or Trento DOC. Instead, I am not a big fan of Prosecco, I have to admit, or more in general of sparkling wines made with the Charmat-Martinotti Method. I just prefer the greater structure, the more complex aromatic and flavor palette of the former over the latter. There, I said it.

This, however, is a question of personal taste and is not meant to say that there are no good Prosecco’s out there (although you definitely need to know which ones are the quality producers if you want to avoid disappointments) or that there is no place for a good bottle of a Charmat-Martinotti Method sparkler on your table! To prove this, today I am going to tell you about the one Charmat-Martinotti Method Prosecco that, to date, I like best among those that I have had an opportunity to taste so far: Le ColtureProsecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze Dry DOCG ($30).

The Bottom Line

Overall, I really liked this premium Prosecco and all that it offers. My only gripe is about the price: 30 bucks is in my view in the high end of the range, even for a quality Prosecco. Personally, I think it should be in the $20 to 25 price band. Other than that, in my view, the perfect interplay between its off-dry taste (due to its higher residual sugars) and its refreshing acidity and minerality is what really makes this Prosecco. Certainly, Champagne (or even a Classic Method spumante) it ain’t, but nor does it claim to be. There is definitely a place for this Prosecco in my fridge (and I would think it would not be wasted in yours either!) to enjoy chilled with friends on one of those warm Summer nights!

Rating: Good to Very Good Good to Very Good – $$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

About the Appellations

Prosecco wine is made prevalently or exclusively from partly-aromatic Glera (also known as Prosecco – see more about this below) white-berried grapes in two Italian DOCG appellations and in one more loosely regulated inter-regional DOC appellation, as follows:

  • Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene (or simply Prosecco di Valdobbiadene) DOCG in the Veneto region, near the town of Treviso;
  • Prosecco dei Colli Asolani DOCG in the Veneto region, near and including the town of Asolo;
  • Prosecco Spumante DOC, an appellation which covers a vast territory stretching between the regions of Veneto and Friuli.

The regulations of the two DOCG appellations require that their Prosecco wines be made 85% or more from Glera grapes, to which up to 15% of Verdiso, Bianchetta Trevigiana, Perera or Glera Lunga white-berried grapes may be blended. The regulations of the DOC appellation are similar but permit that a few additional grape varieties be blended to the Glera base grapes, as follows: Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio or Pinot Noir.

Prosecco is one of the main examples of a sparkling wine made according to the so-called Charmat-Martinotti Method, although there are a few producers who also make some very good Classic Method Prosecco’s. Compared to the Classic Method, the Charmat-Martinotti Method is a quicker and cheaper production process for sparkling wine, which is known to maximize primary (or varietal) aromas although it generally sacrifices the wine structure and the finest perlage. For more detailed information, please refer to our post on the Charmat-Martinotti Method.

With regard to residual sugar levels, according to applicable regulations, Prosecco spumante wines may be produced in any of the following styles, and therefore except only in the Extra Brut (less than 6 gr/lt of residual sugar) or Sweet (more than 50 gr/lt of residual sugar) versions:

  • Brut (less than 15 gr/lt of residual sugar)
  • Extra Dry (12 to 20 gr/lt of residual sugar)
  • Dry (17 to 35 gr/lt of residual sugar – as in the case of the bottle that we are reviewing)
  • Demi-Sec (33 to 50 gr/lt of residual sugar, which would make it taste quite sweet).

About the Grape

Here things for Prosecco tend to complicate a bit…

Up until recently, Prosecco was the name for three things: the wine, its main grape variety and the homonymous village near the town of Trieste (in the Italian region of Friuli) that probably gave the wine and the grape their name. Relatively easy so far.

Then in 2009, with Prosecco’s popularity and sales soaring (in 2011 the overall production of Prosecco was about 265 million bottles, 55% of which were exported), the consortium of Prosecco producers obtained an official change in the name of the grape variety, from Prosecco to Glera, so that Prosecco would only be the name of the wine (and not of the grape variety too) and could therefore be reserved for its designation of origin, thus preventing other producers from other Italian regions or other countries from calling their sparkling wines Prosecco (in this regard, see our recent post about the dispute with Croatia to require that they rename their own Prosek wine).

At any rate, the main grape variety that is used in the production of the wine Prosecco was called Prosecco Tondo (now Glera) which DNA profiling has shown to be identical to a rare variety that is indigenous to the Istria region of Croatia named Teran Bijeli. This evidence supports the theory of an Istrian origin for the Prosecco/Glera grape variety.

Other grapes that may be used in the production of the wine Prosecco and that used to be considered clonal variations of Prosecco Tondo, but DNA analysis has proved to be distinct varieties, are Prosecco Lungo and Prosecco Nostrano (the latter, by the way, has been proven to be identical to Malvasia Bianca Lunga).

(Information on the grape varieties taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012)

About the Estate

Le Colture estate is located in proximity to Santo Stefano di Valdobbiadene, in the heart of Veneto’s Prosecco district, and encompasses about 45 HA of vineyards. The bottle that we are about to review is made from 100% Glera grapes grown in Le Colture’s vineyards in the high quality, hilly subzone known as Superiore di Cartizze and located near the village of San Pietro di Barbozza (in the surroundings of the town of Valdobbiadene) within the broader territory of the Prosecco di Valdobbiadene DOCG appellation. The grapes are harvested between mid September and mid October and the wine is made, as is traditionally the case for Prosecco’s, through the refermentation of the must in pressurized autoclaves according to the Charmat-Martinotti Method. Please refer to our previous post about it for more information about this method, the main steps it entails and how it differs from the Classic Method that is utilized for making (among others) Champagne, Franciacorta and Trento DOC sparkling wines.

Our Detailed Review

Let’s now get to the actual review of Le Colture, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze Dry DOCG, which retails in the US for about $30.

The wine is made from 100% Glera grapes, has 11% ABV and comes in the “Dry” variety, which means that it has fairly high residual sugar, in the amount of 23 gr/l. At 4.5 ATM, the pressure in the bottle is also gentler than that which you would generally expect in a Classic Method wine (about 6 ATM), except in a Franciacorta Saten variety.

As usual, for my review I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

In the glass, the wine was brilliant with a pleasant straw yellow color. As to the all-important perlage, its bubbles were numerousaverage in size (not the finest, but certainly not coarse either) and the chains of bubbles were definitely long-lasting.

On the nose, its bouquet was moderately intense, moderately complex and fine, with Spring-y aromas of jasmine flowers, peach, citrus and apple: something capable in and of itself to put you in a good mood. 🙂

In the mouth, this Prosecco was off-dry, with low ABV and moderately smooth; it was acidic and tasty. It was light-bodied and pleasantly balanced, with its lively acidity and tasty minerals nicely counterbalancing its higher residual sugars any preventing any flatly sweet feeling. Its mouth flavors were intense and fine, showing a nice match with its aromatic palette, with refreshing notes of peach, citrus and apple. It had a medium finish and its evolutionary state was mature, meaning: do not cellar, drink it now and enjoy its freshness.

Psychobubbles Part IV: Some of the Best Prosecco’s

Cheers!

There we go, at last our series of posts on Italian spumante is coming to an end, with this last installment focusing on a few recommendations for quality Italian Method spumante wines.

As we said on the second post of our series, the two most renowned Italian Method sparkling wines are Prosecco and Asti Spumante. Beside being made from different grapes (Glera for the former, Moscato Bianco for the latter), Prosecco is generally produced as a dry wine (as per the applicable specifications, it can be produced in any of the variants ranging from Brut to Demisec in terms of residual sugar), while Asti Spumante is a sweet dessert wine with over 50 gr/lt of residual sugar.

On this post, we will just concentrate on Prosecco because… I have to admit it: I am not a huge fan of Asti Spumante or sweet sparkling wines in general. Should any of our readers be interested in a couple of recommendations of quality Asti Spumante wines, feel free to leave a comment on this page and I will gladly oblige 😉

Montesel, Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore "Riva dei Fiori" Brut DOCGBefore getting to the actual recommendations, let’s just say a few words about Prosecco in general: Prosecco is made prevalently or exclusively from partly-aromatic Glera (also known as Prosecco) white-berried grapes in two Italian DOCG appellations and in one more loosely regulated inter-regional DOC appellation, as follows:

  • Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG in the Veneto region;
  • Prosecco dei Colli Asolani DOCG in the Veneto region;
  • Prosecco Spumante DOC, an appellation which stretches between the regions of Veneto and Friuli.

Prosecco is one of the main examples of a sparkling wine made according to the so-called Italian Method production process, although there are a few producers who also make some very good Classic Method Prosecco’s, such as Valdo‘s Prosecco Brut Metodo Classico Numero 10 DOCG (see, our full review of this outstanding Prosecco).

Bepin De Eto, Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore Brut DOCGCompared to the Classic Method, the Charmat-Martinotti Method is a quicker and cheaper production process for sparkling wine, which is known to maximize primary (or varietal) aromas although it generally sacrifices the wine structure and the finest perlage. For more detailed information, please refer to our post on the Charmat-Martinotti Method.

Now, let’s move on to a few recommendations of quality Prosecco’s:

  • Adami, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore Brut “Bosco di Gica” DOCG (95-97% Glera grapes/3-5% Chardonnay grapes, with aromas of wisteria, pear, apple, peach, Mirabelle plum and herbs);
  • Astoria, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore “Cuvée Tenuta Val de Brun” Extra Dry DOCG (100% Glera grapes, with a bouquet of white flowers, pear, apple and citrus);
  • Bepin De Eto, Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore Brut DOCG (100% Glera grapes, with scents of rose, wisteria, apple, pear, peach, bread crust and minerals – commendable is the investment made by the owners to achieve a very good density of 4,000 vines/HA);Adami, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore Brut "Bosco di Gica" DOCG
  • Le Colture, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze Dry DOCG (100% Glera, with a bouquet of white flowers, peach, citrus and herbs);
  • Marsuret, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore “San Boldo” Brut DOCG (100% Glera grapes, with aromas of mint, broom, elder blossoms, apple, citrus and minerals);
  • Montesel, Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore “Riva dei Fiori” Brut DOCG (100% Glera grapes, with scents of elder blossoms, wisteria, pear, apple, lime and minerals);
  • Nino Franco, Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCG (100% Glera, made in the finest sub-zone of the appellation known as Cartizze and displaying fine aromas of jasmine blossoms, passion fruit, citrus, herbs and minerals);Valdo, Prosecco Brut Metodo Classico Numero 10 DOC
  • Nino Franco, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene “Grave di Stecca” Brut (100% Glera, with scents of wild flowers, almond, apricot and citrus).

Hope you have an opportunity to enjoy some of these wines and, if you do, feel free to share your opinion here.

Psychobubbles Part II: An Overview of Méthode Charmat-Martinotti (or Italian Method) Spumante

Cheers!

On our previous post we started our journey into the world of Italian spumante by covering the basics, very briefly touching upon Champagne, introducing the two main processes to make a natural sparkling wine, the Champenoise or Classic Method and the Charmat-Martinotti or Italian Method, and finally going through the main steps of the Classic Method production process. So, if you missed that post, you may want to go through it first and then dive into this second chapter of the “spumante saga” 😉

On today’s post we will briefly discuss how and when the Charmat-Martinotti Method came to be, we will then point out the main differences between the production processes for the Italian Method and the Classic Method and finally we will go through the main steps of the Charmat-Martinotti Method, including its variant used in the production of Asti Spumante.

Let’s therefore start with some history. The development of the most commonly utilized alternative process to make a sparkling wine, the so-called Martinotti Method or Charmat Method or even Italian Method, took place at the end of the XIX century, precisely in 1895 when Federico Martinotti, who was in charge of the Royal Enological Station in Asti, invented a steel pressurized and refrigerated vessel known as “autoclave” that is used to make Italian Method spumante wines. This alternative process is also known as “Charmat Method” because a French engineer by the name of Eugéne Charmat adapted the design of Martinotti’s autoclave to suit industrial production of sparkling wine and rolled out the product in 1907. Considering the contributions made by both such gentlemen to devising such alternative production process, I think the proper way to identify it would be “Charmat-Martinotti Method.”

Now, let’s get a little more into the specifics of how the Italian Method differs from the Classic Method and what this means to you if you want to buy a bottle of wine made according to one versus the other of such production processes.

First of all, let’s start by saying that two of the most renown Italian Method spumante wines are:

  • Prosecco (although there are a few producers who also make very good Classic Method Prosecco’s, such as Valdo‘s Prosecco Brut Metodo Classico Numero 10 DOCG). Prosecco is made prevalently or exclusively from partly-aromatic Glera (also known as Prosecco) grapes in either one of the following two DOCG appellations of the Veneto region: Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG or Prosecco dei Colli Asolani DOCG as well as in the more loosely regulated DOC appellation Prosecco Spumante DOC, which stretches between Veneto and Friuli; and
  • Asti Spumante, which is made exclusively from aromatic Moscato Bianco grapes in Piemonte’s DOCG appellation Asti Spumante.

Generally speaking, Prosecco is made as a dry wine: according to applicable regulations, it may be produced in all variants between Brut (less than 15 gr/lt of residual sugar) and Demi-Sec (33 to 50 gr/lt of residual sugar, which would make it fairly sweet tasting), but your best bets are in the Brut, Extra Dry (12 to 20 gr/lt of residual sugar) or Dry (17 to 35 gr/lt of residual sugar) versions.

Asti Spumante, instead, is typically a sweet dessert sparkling wine, with over 50 gr/lt of residual sugar. So, do not serve Asti Spumante with appetizers – just keep it chilled until the end of your meal and pair it with a dessert.

On our previous post, we saw how two key features of the Classic Method are its in-bottle refermentation process of the base wines and then the generally long period of time spent by Classic Method wines aging on their lees before their being shipped off to wholesalers and retailers worldwide.

What makes Italian Method sparkling wines generally less expensive than Classic Method wines and different in terms of aromas and taste is mainly their different production process. For Italian Method wines, this is much shorter because refermentation of the base wine(s) takes place in a pressurized autoclave instead of in-bottle and so does their much shorter aging time on their lees. Essentially, after the production of the base wine(s), the entire refermentation, aging and bottling phases of an Italian Method spumante all take place in an isobaric, refrigerated environment inside an autoclave, which dramatically shortens production time.

In real life, what does this mean to you? Well, for starters it means that if you buy an Italian Method spumante (like Prosecco, for instance) it will feel different both in the nose and in the mouth compared to a Classic Method sparkling wine (such as a Franciacorta or a Trento). This is because, by aging often for years on their lees, Classic Method wines develop a number of intriguing secondary and tertiary aromas, such as the quite notorious bread crust or “just baked bread” aroma.

Because of the different production process and the much shorter aging time, most Italian Method wines have fewer (or less distinct) secondary and tertiary aromas, but make up for it by being generally made from aromatic grapes (as is the case for Asti Spumante, which is made from aromatic Moscato Bianco grapes) or partly-aromatic grapes (such as Glera, also known as Prosecco) and therefore emphasizing the primary or varietal aromas of the grape(s) their base wine(s) are made out of.

In other words, chances are that if you pop a bottle of Classic Method sparkling wine you will get a broader, more complex aromatic palette and mouth feels while if you pour a few glasses of a quality Italian Method spumante you will likely get a fresher, simpler wine with quite distinct flowery and fruity aromas.

Other differences between a Classic Method wine and an Italian Method one are that the former generally has a color that is warmer in hue, a finer perlage and more structure than the latter. Regarding structure, this is a bit of a generalization as it is essentially dependent on the grape varieties that are used for making the base wines, so the point holds true especially for Classic Method wines that have Pinot Noir in their cuvée (a grape variety that is known to confer structure to the wine) and, even more so, for Blanc de Noirs.

Let’s take a little detour here: on our previous post we said that the base wines of a Classic Method sparkling wine are made from all or some of the following grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (as far as Champagne is concerned), which last grape variety in Italy is generally replaced by different grapes, such as Pinot Blanc (as far as Italian Classic Method spumante is concerned). So, what we could call the “kosher” version of Champagne or Classic Method wines is made out of a cuvée produced from all three of such base grapes. However, there are two main variants from the “kosher” version, that are known as Blanc de Blancs and Blanc de Noirs.

The former is a wine made exclusively out of permitted white-berried grapes (in the case of Champagne, this means a Chardonnay-only wine), which is generally fresher, gentler and of lighter body, very suitable for instance as an appetizer or paired with delicate flavored seafood.

The latter is just the opposite, that is a wine made exclusively or prevalently out of permitted black-berried grapes (again, in the case of Champagne, this means Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier), which is generally a more structured, more complex wine that is more suitable to be served with an appropriate pasta dish or even main course.

Although we will provide a more in depth overview of what a proper wine tasting should entail in a future post, I think it is important to point out certain distinctive features that everyone with an interest in wine can have fun identifying and assessing in a sparkling wine:

  1. Color: this varies depending on the grapes used in the base wines, but it is one of the characteristics that should always be appreciated, be it a warmer straw or even golden yellow color of a well-aged Classic Method wine or a paler straw yellow, sometimes with greenish hints, of an Italian Method wine;
  2. Perlage: this is the key feature to be assessed in a sparkling wine, which oftentimes either makes or breaks the wine – what you are looking for here is the three distinct characteristics of a quality perlage: (i) fine-grained bubbles; (ii) abundant bubbles forming uninterrupted chains from the bottom of the glass to the surface; and (iii) long-lasting formation of new chains of bubbles;
  3. Bouquet: although fine-nosed wine tasters can go wild identifying the slightest hints of this or that, anyone can take pleasure in picking up the scents of a good sparkling wine and trying to identify some of the more distinct aromas, such as bread crust or yeast, apple, almond or wild berries that may be present in a Classic Method wine or the flowery, fruity notes of a Prosecco, often reminiscent of white flowers and pear or again the sweet aromas of sage and peach of an Asti Spumante.

Before we get to the description of the main steps of the Charmat-Martinotti Method, a few practical pieces of advice to maximize your sparkling wine tasting experience (by the way, these apply to any sparkling wine, regardless of its being a Classic Method or an Italian Method wine):

  • The proper glass to serve a sparkling wine (except only the sweet ones, on which see below) is a flute, not a cup: this is because the elongated and narrow shape of the flute both emphasizes perlage and concentrates the fine aromas in the nose;
  • While we are at it, much to Francesca’s dismay (she just loooves her tinted glasses), all glasses you serve wine in, regardless of it being sparkling or still, red, white or rosé, must be made of clear glass or crystal: no matter how “cute” the tint of those pretty glasses you have sitting in that special cupboard, tinted glass is a no no because it kills right away one of the most important features of a wine: its own color!
  • Ideally, your flutes should not be washed with soap, you should just use hot water instead and they should be dried using a natural fiber cloth (such as cotton or linen): this is because, in order for perlage to be at its best, those chains of bubbles need to hang on to something inside the glass, so minuscule lints of cotton or linen are just perfect to maximize your favorite spumante’s perlage, while an ultra-clean, super shiny inside of the flute is going to penalize it.
  • Finally, the proper glass to enjoy an Asti Spumante or any other sweet sparkling wine is instead a cup with a wide, shallow bowl, because its larger opening tames a little bit the generally exuberant varietal aromas, while its shallower depth is not so detrimental to the often coarser, less refined perlage of that kind of sparkling wines.

Main Steps in the Charmat-Martinotti Method Production Process:

  1. Soft pressing of the base wine grape(s)
  2. Treatments of the must (e.g., clarification and application of sulfur dioxide)
  3. Fermentation of the base wine(s) by the addition of selected yeast
  4. Where necessary, blending of the base wines
  5. Transfer of the base wine(s) into a pressurized, refrigerated autoclave with the addition of sugar and selected yeast
  6.  Refermentation in autoclave, which makes the wine bubbly because the carbon dioxide created by the yeast as a byproduct of alcoholic fermentation remains trapped inside the pressurized autoclave and dissolves into the wine
  7. Brief period of aging on the lees in autoclave (generally, just a few months)
  8. Isobaric stabilization and filtration, to remove the lees
  9. Isobaric bottling and closure

The production process of a sweet Asti Spumante is basically the same as that described above, except that Asti Spumante undergoes one single fermentation phase, directly in autoclave, where yeast activity is inhibited by dropping the autoclave temperature when the wine has reached the desired low alcohol by volume and high residual sugar levels.

That’s all for now. On the next post, we will chat about some of what we believe to be among the best Classic Method spumante wines made in Italy that are available on the market, especially for their price/quality ratios.

Cheers!