Frizzante, Spumante, and the myths of Prosecco

This article was the most read post on Vino in Love in 2012! Therefore I decided to update it a bit. 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

Sparkling wine Perlage - Animae - Prosecco DOCGA. 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?

Vigneto San Vito - Pignoletto Superiore 2011Now 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?

What you should remember

  • 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 : )

You might also like

Are The Prosecco Police Stepping Out Of Line?
This is a headline you really couldn’t make up, the Italian authorities  have employed a crack team of wine police to patrol bars and restaurants. Led by wine expert Andrea Battistella, this team isn’t on the lookout for boozy revellers, it is fighting back against sub-standard wine. Battistella has been dubbed “007 Prosecco” by the Italian media, and is tasked with making sure that customers are served the original sparkling wine, not a cheap imitation. Rather ironic for a wine many people consider to be a cheap imitation of champagne. Joking aside, this is serious business, any restaurant found offending faces a €20,000 fine. So what is all the fuss about? Continue reading


33 comments on “Frizzante, Spumante, and the myths of Prosecco”

    • vino in love Reply

      Italy offers such a large variety of different wines so if you decide to try more Italian then I’m sure you’ll find something you’ll like 🙂 And Oliver can for sure recommend you some stunning German Rieslings 🙂

  1. theducksong Reply

    Just saw the list includes Ferrari!! Since when do they sell wine? I thought they only produce sports cars!

  2. winetalks winetalks Reply

    Sparkling wine is so good! I love the classic methods from Valdobiaddene in Lombardy!! Thanks for explaining the differnece between Frizzante and Spumante

  3. wpawinepirate Reply

    Great post!!! There is so much useful info in it. I am glad you put it up again. Keep up the good work and we will be waiting to read and learn.

  4. hannah-theis hannah-theis Reply

    Thanks a lot for this great article! I never knew the difference between frizante and spumante. Always thought that both are champagne-like wines but then often some were of much inferior quality (the frizantes). Finally, I understand why : -)

    • vino in love Reply

      I’m happy that you enjoy my writings!
      Italian sparklers can be quite confusing – that’s why I thought about reposting this article.

    • vino in love Reply

      Thank you, Stefano! I appreciate it, that you like my writings.
      The guide was probably not too informative for you though since you probably knew all that already 😛

    • vino in love Reply

      Hey Frank,
      Thank you for stopping by! You’re right, many Prosecchi are quite easy to drink. They make good aperitifs! But personally when it comes to Italian sparkling wine I prefer a Trento Doc (preferably from Cantine Ferrari).

    • vino in love Reply

      Thank you so much for your nice words 🙂
      I’m very happy that you like the article! Italian wine is not that complicated 😉 If you have a passion for them then you will learn very quickly.

  5. Wine and Wine Reply

    Thanks for this awesome write up! It helped me a lot understanding the key differences between italian Sparkling wines 🙂

  6. Lovewinesonly Reply

    Hi Julien, good, informative article.
    I’ve tasted a lovely prosecco which is very flavorful with ultra fine, long-lasting bubbles – de-stefani prosecco zero. I’m impressed, only to learn that the method of production is several steps of chilling the juice to zero degree Celsius during fermentation. Is that a common practice for other producers too? That should be the reason for the flavors and long lasting bubbles too?

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Thanks for stopping by and sorry for my late reply!
      I’m glad that you find the post informative.

      Unfortunately, I haven’t tried the De Stefani Prosecco Zero but as far as I know, it’s not common to chill the grape juice to 0 degrees.
      The long-lasting bubbles are more likely the result of classic method production.
      Not sure what the benefit of chilling the juice during fermentation is. But I’ll look into it and let you know if I find out.

  7. Rob B Reply

    Julian, can you help clear a point up for me.
    We are importing 20 litre kegs of Prosecco from Italy into the UK; can we legitimately call it “Draught Prosecco”?
    The product in question comes from the Veneto region and is 100% Glera Grape, so I don’t think there is any problem from that point of view, however I have read conflicting/confusing content that suggests that if the product is less than 3 bar pressure then it should be Frizzante and not Prosecco, but the content I have read is specific to bottles of Prosecco and not kegs of Prosecco. Kegs linked up to standard beer cooling systems in the UK can be anywhere between 2.5 bar and 3,5 bar, so presumably it’s legit to call it Draught Prosecco?
    Also on the particular point about Prosecco not being Prosecco if it is less than 3.0 bar in a bottle, is this particular point just Italian law or is it also EU law, if this is just Italian law then presumable it wouldn’t be relevant in the UK?
    In a nutshell can we legitimately call these kegs “Draught Prosecco” in the UK?

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Thank you for stopping by!
      The best way to find out whether you are allowed to sell your sparkling wine as Prosecco or not is by checking its denomination. Every wine in the EU has a denomination / appellation. If the wine is classified as Prosecco DOC or as Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene DOCG then you may sell it as Prosecco. If the wine is for instance classified as Veneto IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) or as VDT (Vino da Tavola) then you may not sell the wine as Prosecco.

      The UK laws don’t matter here because the product comes from Italy. UK authorities have no power to decide what makes a wine a Prosecco. Only the Italians do. This is regulated by EU law.

  8. Garry K. Reply

    Thank you for this article, well done and clear, if only everything could be like this 😉

  9. Kimian111 Reply

    Yes, I agree with the posts that it is the next best thing to tasting wine– learning everything about wines and their journeys to our wine glass. (P.S., was that a pun at the start, written in red, talking about wine and saying it was the most “red” article? I found it amusing, intentional or not.)

  10. Ruth Brennan Reply

    Hi there, can you tell me, if a wine is described as Spumante, does it mean that it is sweet & fizzy ( like Asti Spumante). Only I have also seen wines described as Spumante Brut, and Spumante Extra Dry (which I thought were very dry). So I am a bit confused as I really don’t want to purchase the wrong type as I prefer sweet wines.

  11. Jeff Reply

    This is the best explanation I’ve found. Well done! Now I’m off to the store with my new found knowledge.

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