Sparkling Wine. The traditional or ancestral method?

Sparkling wines from around the world have two things in common: sugars and yeasts. Two vital ingredients which are necessary for the production of those refreshing bubbles.


There are in fact many types of ways to produce a sparkling wine. One of the most famous methods is perhaps the Traditional method (or the Champagne method when referring to Champagne), a method created by Dom Perignon close to the city of Epernay in 1668 in Champagne, France. The method was then introduced to Spain in 1958 by Joan Raventós when he began producing cava. The Traditional, or Champagne, method is broadly speaking a sparkling wine that is formed through two fermentations. The first fermentation results in a still wine. This wine then undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle, adding sugar and yeast to help produce CO2 in the wine. After a few weeks, months or even yeasts, depending on their ageing, the wine is disgorged to remove the yeasts that have done their job, putting on the final cork and optionally adding Liqueur d’expedition, which is made up of sugar and some kind of brandy or a formula of the winery. Every stage and process of this method is measured and studied. For example, the wine is clarified to ensure that it is not cloudy, ensuring the second fermentation is carried out smoothly, or the amount of sugar needed to create the desired carbon and time measured required to refine the bubbles.

Then comes our second method, even older, the Ancestral Method. This method dates back to 1531, and was created by the Benedictine monks of Saint-Hilaire, Languedoc. It is simpler than the Traditional method, since it only required one fermentation. For this method, the first fermentation is not completely finished when the wine is bottled. It follows that the carbon dioxide is produced by the grapes’ natural sugars. The ancestral development is much simpler and more spontaneous than the Champenoise method.

The number of fermentations is not the only difference between the two methods, and not even the most important. Big differences come from the vineyard, grape, climate and varieties. A winemaker who uses the traditional method in the region of Champagne will harvest the grapes from around to around 8-10% alcohol, so that the second fermentation later increases this to 11-12% with the addition of sugars. This, together with the climate of Spain, is completely different since the phenolic maturity of native varieties is achieved at a higher probable alcohol content, so the grapes are harvested in a state, say, something greener, without development aromatic optimal. However, with the ancestral method all of the sugars come from the grape itself, which means that they must be at the right point of maturation to perform all of the fermentation and produced the desired CO2 in the bottle.

The Traditional Method is used more widely today, however there is a new wave of processors that have begun to develop sparkling wines under the old method with very interesting results, producing more direct, fruity sparkling wines that are somewhat less complex because they are not aged for as long in the bottle.

Two types of sparkling wines, produced in very different way right from the vineyard. If you would like to try and see the difference between these two production methods, here we have a few excellent examples of each method.

Good examples of cavas produced using the traditional method include Recardo Gran Reserva Brut Nature, and At Roca Brut Reserva.

In regards to sparkling wines made using the ancestral method, we recommend La Salada Tinc Set Ancestral, and the Rafael Sala Ancestral.

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