Let’s start with one very simple question about Sparkling Wine that you may not have thought of before. Why put bubbles in wine? The only logical answer is to try and make your product better. It has to be. Nobody would seriously attempt to make their product less good would they? So bubbles improve the wine. Must be.
If you try to make your own wine you’ll find there is a natural fiz. As your grape juice ferments into wine, you can choose to bottle it then, without ‘cleaning’ it. You will get a wine with a slight fizz.
On the French label it will state ‘pet nat’, which stands for pétillant naturel. These bubbles are soft and gentle in the mouth and usually very reasonably priced.
There are two main ways to manufacture the bubbles into sparkling wine. Méthod Traditionnelle versus Charmat or Martinotti or more simply, tank method.
Méthod Traditionnelle is used in a small area of North East France that has managed to give its region name to the drink known as Champagne. The way the sparkling wine producers of this small area put the bubbles into their wines is now a protected term. If a wine with bubbles is made in this area it can call itself Champagne. If it isn’t made in this area they can’t. At all. No way.
How you put bubbles in is very important to wine makers and drinkers too. In fact all the information you need to know is on the label. However if you can’t decipher that label or know what other words mean the same it’s difficult.
‘Méthod Traditionnelle’ or Tank Method?
If the bubbles are put into the wine in the very same method as the sparkling wine producers in that very small are of France you can put ‘Méthod Traditionnelle’, on the label. In the past other terms could be put such as method champenoise or even ‘(name of country) champagne’. No longer though.
If you see a bottle that bears the title ‘Méthod Traditionnelle’, on the label you can be assured that it was made in exactly the same way as any of those large famous brands you may have heard of. Unless.
Occasionally you may see the word ‘crémant’. This will tell you that the wine if made in France, but not in ‘that place’, but the bubbles are put in the same way as ‘MT’, but, because the French are so good at being so wonderfully French, they want to point out they have their own word, a word that the manufacturers of ‘that drink from that place’ can’t use. Comme ça.
This will, should or could make an enormous price difference to you. There are some fantastic sparkling wines made across France bearing the legend crémant.
Other countries put their bubbles in using the ‘MT’ method. There is an advantage to the wine to be made using ‘MT’. In general the wines will have more flavour as they spent longer in contact with the yeasts and sugar in the bottle having their second fermentation.
They really will carry more flavour than tank method, but that will depend upon your taste. Cleaner crisper drinkers should prefer tank method and if you prefer more flavours and not just the bubble effect go ‘MT’.
Crémant from France, Cava from Spain, Franciacorta from Italy, Method Cap Classique from South Africa. All these wines will have been manufactured using the very same method as the sparkling wines from ‘that place’.
There are countries that are outside of EU legislation and they may try to use phrases to hint at the ‘c’ word, but in general this habit is getting less common.
Obviously the marketing experts have managed to create a massive premium on one particular word with reference to sparkling wines. One that creates an illusion that there can be only one, and it all must be excellent. This then leads onto the follow on belief that all the other stuff can’t be up to the mark.
Well that is for you to decide. But, if you want well created bubbles in a sparkling wine, with smaller, longer lasting bubbles, a wine with more flavours and more secondary tastes then that will be made in the ‘Méthod Traditionnelle’. That must tell you something.
I recommended a Crémant to my friend for Christmas. I later found out he did buy two bottles on my call. He also backed this up with two bottles of far more expensive Champagne.
He has informed me that around the table that Christmas none of the guests could tell which was which and although he felt I had given him useful knowledge, he was rather upset at how much he had spent on the name and label of a region.
Knowledge is Power, and how do I know all this? Reader, I drank some!