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Ancient sparkling wines: a return to the origins

30/08/2023 Winemaking

Amidst the hustle and bustle of our day-to-day lives, the essence of “Kinfolk” emerges, an invitation to reconnect with our roots and embrace a simpler approach to living. This trend, which originated in the United States, was inspired by the lifestyle of the Amish community, where everything revolves around nature and a simple existence in the countryside. A minimalist lifestyle that emphasizes the importance of community, connection to the land and the value of simple, authentic things in a modern, fast-paced world. This quest to reconnect with practices and values that may have fallen by the wayside in today’s society, is the perfect context for the ancient method, an old and traditional technique that has been passed down from generation to generation for making sparkling wines.

What is the ancient method?

When we think of sparkling wine, the word champagne immediately comes to mind, a wine made following the traditional method and originating in France that has won over the most exquisite palates for centuries. But the truth is that this is not the only way to make bubbles. While the champenoise or traditional method uses a second fermentation in the bottle with the addition of yeast and sugar, the Italians make their famous prosecco, spumante d'Asti and lambrusco following the charmat method, where the second fermentation happens in large stainless steel tanks. However, if you’re going to boast of originality and antiquity, ancient sparkling wines, also known as “méthode ancestrale” or “méthode pétillant naturel”, are the winners. This type of winemaking has its origins in the 16th century and is characterised by starting fermentation like any other wine and, before it has finished, it is bottled and capped so that the fermentation process continues naturally without the need to add yeast or additional sugar. And as a general rule, producers who choose the ancient method work in direct contact with nature using organic, ecological and even biodynamic methods, they produce natural sparkling wines in which the variety, the vintage, the soil and the unique personality of their place of origin are showcased in their most honest state.

How do you identify a Pét-Nat?

If there is one thing that characterises an ancient sparkling wine, it is that it is very easy to drink and enjoy. As well as having less intervention in the propduction process, one of the important differences of the ancient method when it comes to drinking is the pressure. Whether white, rosé or red, “Pétillant Naturel”, “Pét-Nats” for short, have less pressure and are therefore lighter, with a more subtle bubble and, usually, a lower alcohol content. And since the bottling process is neither filtered nor clarified, the wine normally has a certain turbidity caused by the presence of dead yeasts, which is not a bad thing at all. Rather, it is a clear indicator of its non-interventionist approach.

If these clues aren’t enough and you’re still not sure if it’s a pét-nat in your hands, look at the seal and you will know for sure. While the traditional method tops its bottles with natural cork, the ancient ones are usually capped with a metal plate like the ones used for beer bottles. This is a clear differentiating factor that indicates that this ancient sparkling wine is not a wine for aging and that it is made to be opened and enjoyed as soon as possible. And although the winemaking process is clearly committed to a return to the origins, the presentation, on the other hand, champions modernity with original and daring labels that have nothing to do with the classic and elegant image of the great champagnes.

So now you know, if you want to be trendy in the world of bubbles, the ancient sparkling wines are the ones that are winning over consumers. A return to the origins that provides us with original, natural, fresh and bubbly sparkling wines that go with everything and are loved by everyone.