This guide was the most red post on Vino in Love in 2012! Therefore I decided to enhance it even more. The post was still written in the old wordpress.com style because I simply had no time to update it any sooner. But now the guide has gotten a complete overhaul! I hope you enjoy it as much as you did in 2012!
This guide is for those who do not know the difference between Vino Frizzante and Vino Spumante; it is also for those who want to learn more about the different production methods for sparkling wine. Last but not least this guide will also cover the myths of ‘Prosecco’
Frizzante, Spumante, and the myths of Prosecco
Have you ever ordered Prosecco at a restaurant? Of course you have. Who hasn’t! But was it Frizzante or Spumante or even Fermo?
There are significant differences between the three. Most likely you either drank a Frizzante or a Spumante. Fermo is quite uncommon. More on that later. First of all, we should make it crystal-clear that Prosecco is not a grape nor a specific wine -it is an appellation. Prosecco used to be the name of a grape which now is known as Glera. At the end of this guide we will focus our attention on Prosecco/Glera again.
Before we have a closer look at these sparkling wines we will examine the differences between the two most important production methods.
I. Metodo Champenoise and Metodo Martinotti
A. Metodo Champenoise
The Metodo Champenoise, also known as Metodo Classico (Champenoise Method; Classic Method) is the traditional way of producing sparkling wine. It was first used in the Champagne region of France for the manufacturing of Champagne. In Italy, only vino Spumante is produced after the Metodo Champenoise. I will explain why later.After a primary fermentation and bottling a second fermentation takes place. Vintners add yeas and sugar inside the bottle and then close the bottle with a crown-cap. Because of this, the carbon dioxide will stay in the wine. Most appellations require (at least) 18 months of aging. Sparkling wine that is produced from a single vintage is known as Millesimato. Millesimato can age up to 33 months. The pressure for Italian sparklers, which follow the Metodo Champenoise, can range from 3 bars to 6.5 bars.Depending on how much sugar the spumante has classifications vary from demi-sec (lots of sugar) to extra-brut (almost no sugar).
B. Metodo Martiontti
The Metodo Martinotti, also known as Metodo Charmat (Martinotti Method; Charmat Method) was invented in the 19th century by a Federico Martinotti, an Italian oenologist from Asti.Just like in the Metodo Champenoise, sparkling wine has to undergo two fermentations. The primary fermentation is exactly the same for both production processes.
However, the secondary fermentation does not take place in the bottle. Instead it takes place in large stainless steel tanks. The wine gets bottled under high pressure.
First of all, this results in a much cheaper manufacturing process. Secondly the Metodo Martinotti allows large-scale productions of Spumante.
It can be said without a doubt that Federico Martinotti revolutionized sparkling wine production.
Compared to sparklers manufactured after the Metodo Champenoise, the sparkling wines following the Metodo Martinotti process have an inferior perlage, tend to be less aromatic and are in general of lower quality.
II. Frizzante, Spumante or Fermo?
Now that we know the two major production methods for sparkling wine are we can finally take a look at the types of Italian Sparkling wine.
A. Vino Frizzante
Putting it simple, Vino Frizzante (ital. frizzante: bubbly) is a sparkling wine with a minimum pressure of 1.0 bar and maximum pressure of 2.5 bar. The carbon dioxide can either be natural or come from a gas injection. Natural carbon dioxide is always the result of the Metodo Martinotti.The Metodo Champenoise is never used for Vino Frizzante.A gas injection is very cheap and sparklers with it are of extremly low quality. A rule of thumb: If the Vino Frizzante costs less than 3€ then it has a gas injection. Do not buy it. They will not taste good.The two most well-known appellations for Vino Frizzante are Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene DOCG (Veneto) and Prosecco DOC (Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia). Both appellations also allow the manufacturing of Vino Spumante. Wine from these two appellations has to be made with at least 85% Glera grapes.Other examples for Vino Frizzante are: Pignoletto (Emilia-Romagna) and Lambrusco (Emilia Romagna). A large amount of Italy’s Barbera grapes is used for the production of a light red wine summer wineIn France Vino Frizzante is known as Vin Pétillan and in Germany as Perlwein.
B. Vino Spumante
Pressure is also an excellent indicator for Vino Spumante: At least 3.5 bar. Vino Spumante can be produced after the Metodo Champenoise and after the Metodo Martinotti.
The most-well known appellations include: Asti DOCG (Piedmont), Franciacorta DOCG (Lombardy), Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene DOCG (Veneto) and Trento DOC (Trentino-Alto Adige).
If you buy a Trento DOC then usually you get Metodo Champenoise sparkler, that is because Trento is the second appellation in the world, after Champagne in France to produce high-quality Champagne-like wine. Outstanding Trento DOCs can often beaten an outstanding Champagne.Franciacorta is still a relatively young wine region. It is specialized in vino spumante that follows the Metodo Champenoise process.
Spumante from the appellation Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene DOCG is in most cases a Metodo Martinotti. The German equivalent of Vino Spumante is Sekt. The French equivalents are Champagne and Crémant.
C. Prosecco Fermo
Prosecco Fermo is actually not a sparkling wine. If the bottle label indicates that the wine is fermo (ita:. still) then no matter what grapes are used there won’t be any bubbles. Vino Fermo is a still wine. Now you might wonder why a vintner would write that on his label since most wine is still. It is a good question.
In parts of the Veneto (the appellation Prosecco DOC covers large parts of the Veneto) the same Glera grapes which are used for sparkling wine are also used for the production of still wine. In order not to confuse customers wineries indicate that their wine is fermo whenever it is made with grapes that are usually found in sparkling wines.
Pignoletto would be another example for a grape that is used mostly for sparkling wine but sometimes also for still one.
III. Myths about Prosecco
Myth: Prosecco is a an Italian sparkling wine.
Fact: Prosecco is an appellation for wine. It can be still, sparkling, and frizzante. Therefore, always read the label.
Myth: Prosecco is a white grape.
Fact: Prosecco used to be the name for a white grape. This grape is now known as Glera. In the European Union the use of the name Prosecco in reference as a grape has been outlawed since 2009.
Myth: Prosecco is a synonym for Italian sparkling wine
Fact: Simply wrong. Who told you that?
IV. Wine Recommendations
All Vini Frizzanti that I recommend are produced after the Metodo Martinotti process!
The links will either bring you to a wine review or to wine-searcher.
Pignoletto (Vino Frizzante)
Lambrusco (Vino Frizzante)
Trento DOC (Vino Spumante)
Franciacorta DOCG (Vino Spumante)
Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene DOCG (Vino Spumante)
I am not a big fan of sweet Asti DOCG sparklers. But if someone really wants a recommendation then just ask.
What you should take from this guide:
- Prosecco is not a wine nor a grape – it is an appellation.
- Vino Spumante ≠ Vino Frizzante.
- Gas injection = Low quality = Don’t buy!
If you have any questions about Italian sparkling wine then simply use the comment section below. Of course, feedback is highly appreciated : )
Follow this link for more guides and articles on Italian wine.