Culinary Arts

How to Make Sparkling Wine: The Charmat Method

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Oct 31, 2019 • 3 min read

Ever wonder how the bubbles in your Prosecco got there? This fresh and fruity sparkling wine is brought to you by the Charmat method, the simplest and most widely-used way to capture fermentation’s carbonation.



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What Is the Charmat Method?

The Charmat method is a sparkling winemaking process that traps bubbles in wine via carbonation in large steel tanks. This technique is also called metodo Italiano, the Marinotti method, the tank method, or cuve close (“sealed tank,” from the French cuvée, or vat).

The History of the Charmat Method

Sparkling wine is a relatively recent invention in the history of wine as a beverage. Only within the last 500 years have winemakers been able to intentionally capture bubbles in their wine. The rustic méthode ancestrale and the later méthode champenoise or méthode traditionnelle (traditional or Champagne method) both involve fermentation in individual bottles to carbonate the wine.

The winemaking innovation that would become known as the Charmat method was invented and patented in 1895 by an Italian named Federico Martinotti, a winemaker in Asti. In 1907, Eugène Charmat, a Frenchman, made some improvements to the process and patented it under his name. In Italy, the process is sometimes known as the Martinotti method, after its original inventor. This new winemaking technique allowed for sparkling wine production to be done in volume at a lower price than any previous method.

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What Is the Process for Charmat Method?

The Charmat method begins, like the traditional method, with the creation of an uncarbonated base wine. This wine is mixed with a measure of sugar and yeast (together called the liqueur de tirage), then put in a large stainless steel pressure tank, or autoclave. The yeast and sugar cause a second fermentation in the closed tank, which is held under pressure so the carbon dioxide from the fermentation is forced into the wine.

The second fermentation takes one to six weeks, after which the fizzy wine is immediately filtered and bottled. The dosage is added at bottling, usually to a brut level of sweetness (6–12 grams of sugar per liter).

What Are the Effects of the Charmat Method?

Because Charmat method sparkling wines are bottled directly after secondary fermentation without additional aging, the wines have a fresh fruit character. This makes the Charmat method ideal for wines made from aromatic grape varieties like moscato and riesling. The technique will help retain the grapes’ aromas more than the traditional method, which introduces more nutty, toasty flavors from aging on the wine’s lees (dead yeast cells from fermentation).

Wines carbonated via the Charmat method have two to four atmospheres of pressure, which means that they have softer carbonation than wines made in the traditional method (which have five to seven atmospheres of pressure). Charmat method wines are filtered, so there is never any sediment in the bottle and the wines are crystal clear.


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What Types of Wines Are Made Using the Charmat Method?

The Charmat method is used to make inexpensive Prosecco, Lambrusco, and Asti Spumante wines in Italy. German sekt (sparkling wines) and many sparkling wines from the U.S. also use the Charmat method.

What Are the Differences Between the Charmat Method and the Méthode Champenoise

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  • Process: The Charmat method uses a second fermentation in a large stainless steel tank to trap carbonation in wine. In the méthode Champenoise, the second fermentation happens inside the individual bottles in which the wines are sold.
  • Carbonation: The méthode Champenoise yields the strongest carbonation. Charmat method wines have softer carbonation that dissipates more quickly.
  • Sweetness: Charmat method wines tend to be sweeter than wines made with the méthode Champenoise. This is due to stylistic choices by winemakers rather than any inherent difference in the production methods.
  • Grapes used: Méthode Champenoise sparkling wines are more likely to be made from pinot noir and chardonnay. Charmat method sparkling wines are commonly made from aromatic grapes like glera, riesling, moscato, and lambrusco varieties.
  • Price: Charmat method wines are less expensive to make than méthode Champenoise wines because the Charmat method uses less labor and aging time than the méthode Champenoise.

Want to Learn More About Wine?

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