Spumante - Regulations, Categories, Vines and Methods

Adapted from: Italian Sparkling Wines: Methods, Denominations and Brands - G. Bussi and A. Maietta - AIS: Italian Sommeliers Association

Normative Notes

The regulation of sparkling wine is managed by the European Union and the main rules are mentioned in Regulation of the Community Council n. 1493/99. Below, we will summarize just some of the key information:

Sparkling wine (except for the derogation referred to in Article 44, paragraph 3) is the product obtained from the first or second alcoholic fermentation:

  • of fresh grapes,
  • of grape must
  • of wine ...

suitable to become table wine, v.q.p.r.d. (quality wines produced in specified regions) or imported wines characterized [...] (when the container is uncorked) by the development of carbon dioxide deriving exclusively from fermentation and which, stored at a temperature of 20 ° C in closed containers, has an overpressure due to the gas in solution of not less than 3 bar.

Categories and Types of Sparkling Wine

According to Community legislation, the categories of sparkling wines are 5:


Bubbly wine Quality sparkling wine (Vsq) Quality aromatic sparkling wine (Vsaq) Quality sparkling wine produced in specific regions (Vsqprd) Quality sparkling wine produced in specific regions of aromatic type (Vsaqprd)
NOTE - - partially fermented grape musts or musts and / or
wines obtained from Prosecco qualities.
The addition of dosage syrup is prohibited - only partially fermented grape musts or musts.
The addition of dosage syrup is prohibited
Total alcoholic strength by volume of the base wine 8.5% vol. minimum 9% vol. minimum - Zone CIII (Campania, Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria, Sicily, Sardinia) 9.5% vol. minimum
Other areas of Italy 9% vol. minimum - Actual alcoholic strength by volume 9.5% vol. minimum 10% vol. minimum - 10% vol. minimum 6% vol. minimum Total alcoholic strength by volume - - 10% vol. minimum - 10% vol. minimum Overpressure at 20 ° C 3 bar minimum 3.5 bar minimum 3 bar minimum 3.5 bar minimum 3 bar minimum
Overpressure at 20 ° C (in containers up to 25 cl.) - - - 3 bar minimum - Duration of the processing process - - 1 month minimum - 1 month minimum Duration of the elaboration process (in autoclave) - 6 months minimum - 6 months minimum - Duration of the elaboration process (in bottle) - 9 months minimum - 9 months minimum -


Sparkling wines also differ according to the sugar content:

    • Brut nature, Pas dosé or Zero dosage: less than 3 g / l (the addition of the liqueur d "expedition is prohibited)
    • Extra brut: 0 - 6 g / l
    • Brut: less than 15 g / l
    • Extra dry: 12 - 20 g / l
    • Sec, Secco or Dry: 17 - 35 g / l
    • Demi-sec or Sweet: 33 - 50 g / l
    • Doux or Dolce: more than 50 g / l

Grapes and Terroir for Sparkling Wine

By terroir we mean the set of elements that make it possible to obtain the raw material for the final wine; therefore, not only the soil, but also the microclimate of the area and the quality of the grape.

The most suitable territories for the production of sparkling wine are certainly those with a temperate-cold climate, with lean and shallow soil, and calcareous or partially clayey soils (but also pebbly and loose) with moderate fertility. It is essential that these soils are located in the foothills or hills with good exposure; therefore those facing north, in the plains, at the bottom of the valley, light and humid are excluded.
The vines for sparkling wine differ according to the characteristics to be obtained. The basically neutral ones such as Pinot and Chardonnay lend themselves to both the Classic method (Champenoise) and the Charmat method; on the contrary, the aromatic vines such as Moscati and Malvasie, are mainly predisposed to the Charmat method.
The vines used for the production of sparkling wine are: Pinot nero, Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Grigio, Glera (Prosecco), Riesling, Muller-Thurgau, Cortese, Garganega, Verdicchio, Moscati, Brachetto and Malvasie.

Introduction to production

The base wine for the sparkling wine is obtained from quality grapes, picked by hand slightly earlier than those destined for the production of still wine (to guarantee a percentage of acids). The pressing is soft and the so-called flower must is obtained (yield of grapes into wine not exceeding 60%). This must is left to settle for 1 day and left to ferment for 25 days at low temperatures (18-20 ° C) with the addition of selected yeasts For the production of sweet and aromatic sparkling wines, the must NOT cold fermented (-5 ° C) is preserved.
The sparkling process involves a second fermentation in sealed containers. The sugars, natural or added, are then metabolized by the yeasts releasing carbon dioxide which remains trapped and dissolved, binding to protein compounds that generate the perlage (file of bubbles).
The three methods for sparkling wine (which we will NOT analyze in too much detail) are:

  • Classic (traditional in bottle or Champenoise)
  • Charmat (in large vessels or autoclaves)
  • Marone Cinzano (or transfer, partly in bottle and partly in autoclave)

Classic Method or Champenoise for Sparkling Wine

The Classic or Champenoise method has been used in Italy for more than a century and a half; the first were the Gancia family. However, since 1994 the EU has reserved the term "Champenois Method" only for the production of Champagne.

The stages are:

  1. blending of base wines, carefully considered by the oenologist to give the product the required characteristics;
  2. bottling in heavy glass bottles with the addition of "liqueur de tirage"(sugar syrup + selected yeasts and small doses of mineral and clarifying substances); hermetic window with temporary crown caps (intended to collect residues), and placed horizontally, in dark and cool rooms;
  3. second fermentation or prize de mousse (about 120 days): during this period the refermentation takes place thanks to the yeasts and sugar added in the previous phase; inside the bottles the pressure must reach at least 5 bar, measured at 20 ° C. At this point the wine is already sparkling and the subsequent phases are used to confer value and quality
  4. maturation on the lees (at least 9 months, up to several years for the finest sparkling wines): once the sugar is exhausted, the yeasts die and precipitate on the bottle wall; periodically, the bottles are shaken to prevent the lees from sticking to the walls; purpose of this phase is to give the wine the aromatic substances deriving from the death and subsequent breakdown of the yeast cells
  5. reumage sûr pupitres (gradual inclination of the bottles with the neck down); the purpose of this phase is to make the sediment fall against the crown cap (which contains a polyethylene cylinder called bidule, intended to facilitate the collection of the sediment), in order to then easily remove it.
  6. disgorgement (freezing of the bottle neck and elimination á la glace); thanks to this phase, the sediment is expelled by removing the crown cap
  7. addition of syrup, brandy and other compounds, intended to fill the bottles deprived of part of their contents from the disgorgement; the composition of the added blend significantly affects the characteristics of the sparkling wine.
  8. capping with a cork mushroom cap.

Charmat method for sparkling wine

The Charmat Method is used for 90% of the total production (simpler, fruity and cheaper wines). The main difference is that the second fermentation does not take place in the bottle but in an autoclave, while the upstream phases are almost the same as in the previous method:

  1. preparation of the base wine;
  2. possible addition of sugar and addition of yeast, with subsequent fermentation for 20-30 days at 14-18 ° C;
  3. for dry sparkling wines the maturation takes place on the yeasts, for the sweet ones it immediately passes to the next phase:
  4. stabilization at -3 / -4 ° C: blocking of yeast activity
  5. sterilizing filtration to eliminate yeasts and impurities
  6. Isobaric bottling in order not to disperse the carbon dioxide.

Charmat sparkling wines are classified into 3 types: no stay on the yeasts, short stay (3 months) and long stay (6-9 months).


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