Thousand bubbles

Effervescence and bubbles in wines: which wines and methods to produce them.

Barbara Fassio
Barbara Fassio
bollicine e ragazze

We have all heard of ‘bubbles’ and no, we don’t mean the thousand blues sung by the unsurpassed Mina. We are talking about white or rosé effervescent wines characterised by fizz, vivacity and distinguished from so-called still wines.

The effervescence of wine is determined by the development of bubbles after opening a bottle due to a chemical process in which the carbon dioxide produced during fermentation is released. When the bottle is opened, the gas is released, whose bubbles create the typical froth.

The pressure inside the bottle and the fermentation time determine the amount of carbon dioxide dissolved in the wine. 

Bubbles, however, are not all the same, which is why we sometimes get confused between the many terms: sparkling wines, champagne, spumante, prosecco send us into a crisis? Understandable, let’s see how to distinguish production method, production area or simple designation. Understanding how the process takes place requires method, which one? Let’s find out together!


As is often the case in the wine world, it is the French who determine methodologies and specific terms: the same applies to sparkling wines, in fact the formation of many tiny bubbles that we see spreading from the base of the glass upwards is called perlage. The latter enhances the aromas and tickles the palate, generating the sensation of freshness so much loved especially for a #Lively character.

Perfect bubbles are fine, concatenated and very persistent. They create a fine froth, which is softer in sparkling wines and more persistent in good quality spumante wines. The larger the bubbles become, the more loosely linked and the slower they rise, the lower the quality of the wine.

Spumante wines are classified according to the amount of residual sugar remaining; several categories are thus distinguished:

Brut Nature or Dosage Zero: has a residual sugar content of less than or equal to 3 grams per litre. It has an intense and decidedly dry flavour.

Extra-brut: sugar between 0 and 6 g/l.

Brut: sugar less than 12 g/l.

Extra-dry: between 12 and 17 g/l, the flavour starts to become softer.

Dry or Secco: residual sugar between 17 and 35 g/l. The first sweet wines, but not cloying.

Demy-sec or Abboccato: between 33 and 50 g/l. 

Sweet: if over 50 g/l. Decidedly sweet, perfect accompaniment to dessert.

Semi-sparkling wines are less effervescent and have a slightly different classification, with fewer subdivisions (dry only – semi-dry – amabile and sweet). And if you are interested in finding out more about sweetness and other wine characteristics, you should not miss this article. 


We have realised that perlage characterises many types of wine, but what is the main difference between the various ones we can taste? The production process, certainly. The sparkling wines that so much a #Playful character loves are produced through a process that involves re-fermenting the wine until a sugary solution is added by certain yeasts, which allows for an overpressure (from 3.5 atm on). Clear no? 

Not too much perhaps, let’s simplify and start with the so-called Metodo Classico. It starts with a base wine, produced by fermenting different varieties of grapes separately, then blended to form a cuvée (get used to it, French is recurring today!). If the grapes chosen come from a single vintage, a very good one, we can’t assure you that you will be able to taste it in the company of Russell Crowe, but you will know that the vintage year will be stated on the label and you will find the word Millesimato.

For the more curious, some names that will make you look great on a first date? You can order a Blanc de blancs if the blended wines come from white grapes only, or, if only black grapes are vinified, a Blanc de noirs. An expression of a typical Blanc de blancs, vinified with only Chardonnay grapes, is the classic method ‘Passione’ from the La Casaia winery, with its rich notes of almond and exotic fruit, accompanying the typical hint of bread crust.

Then a mixture of yeast, sugar and wine (the liqueur de tirage) is added to the cuvée, which starts the re-fermentation in the bottle. And now it is time to let the bottles rest, strictly tilted downwards and rotated repeatedly over time, so that all impurities accumulate near the cork. This rotation of the bottles, the remouage, is a true art, which in the best cellars is done by hand, bottle by bottle, on traditional wooden stands called pupitres.

The resting of the bottles can last several months, as is the case for the Enrica Spadafora Brut Nature from the Dei Principi di Spadafora winery, whose bottles remain in the stack for at least 30 months, necessary for the refinement of the fresh, fruity bouquet of this sparkling wine.

bottiglie di spumante

In the final stage, impurities must be removed: dégorgement involves removing the cork and the superficial lees and the subsequent addition of a syrup (the liqueur d’expédition). Its sugar content is what will determine the type of wine obtained, the composition on the other hand is what will make the final product unique. The producer will choose a syrup, a barrique wine or a distillate, according to an absolutely secret recipe.

Finally, our sparkling wine is ready!

But then… Champagne? When the classic method is used to produce wines in the famous French area that bears this name, we speak of the Champenoise Method. After all, this is where the classic method was born by its creator, the Benedictine abbot Dom Pierre Pèrignon. All classic method sparkling wines produced in France but outside Champagne are called Crémant

Same method, different origins.


This time, the creation of an alternative method for making sparkling wine comes from Italy: the Martinotti-Charmat method in fact owes its name to Federico Martinotti who devised the re-fermentation in an autoclave, later adopted and patented by the Frenchman Eugène Charmat.

In this case, after an initial phase similar to that adopted in the classic method, the wine is left to ferment in stainless steel containers at a controlled temperature.

Secondary fermentation in autoclaves is favoured for the production of fresh, fragrant sparkling wines with characteristic fruity notes, with a #Witty character. An excellent choice for a soft wine, suitable for aperitifs, but also capable of accompanying elaborate fish dishes like the Chardonnay Brut (link) vinified by the Panizzari winery, faithful to artisanal processing methods that determine the high quality of its products. 

The long stay on yeasts that characterises the bottle fermentation of the classic method contrasts with the aromas of the aromatic grape varieties. Favouring this method avoids unpleasant results, succeeding instead in exalting the specific fruity scents of each grape variety used: thus for Terramossa (link), a sparkling wine with a delicate flavour and notes of small red fruits. The Podere Palazzo winery has chosen the Martinotti method to bring out the best of the Sangiovese grapes, perfect representatives of the Romagna territory and the quality of the family estate.


There are no two without three and therefore we cannot leave out the traditional production method, which assumes that sparkling wine is produced as our ancestors did: simply allowing the wine to re-ferment in the bottle, thanks to the residual sugar left after vinification.  This is how the Paluffo winery has chosen to work, which in the heart of Tuscany lives, hosts and produces following the rhythms of nature and a project of total sustainability. They believed so much in this method that they used it for their sparkling wine Ancestrale 2021, a lightly sparkling wine in which the sapidity and minerality conferred by the land of origin stand out.  

Wines such as this, produced using the ancestral method, known as ‘sur lies’ or ‘with the bottom’, have been rediscovered in recent years: they are sparkling wines with a #Brilliant character, rather turbid and characterised by notes of yeast and marked acidity and flavour, hints highlighted by the greater presence of yeasts. After fermentation in steel vessels, the temperature is lowered to stop fermentation and an attempt is made to maintain a sufficient residual sugar content to ensure that fermentation resumes after bottling. Thus, without any further additions, the wines resume fermentation but do not develop much carbon dioxide due to the presence of the yeasts. This creates wines in which the effervescence is less pronounced, petillant to put it in the French way.

Often this method is therefore chosen for the production of sparkling wines, perhaps in a rosé version, starting from indigenous vines as they do at Sette Aje for their Cincu Stizzi Vino Frizzante Rosato IGT Terre Siciliane 2020, which on opening expresses all the scents of the land from which it comes: citrus, red fruits, honey and almond.


Prosecco or sparkling wine? What about Franciacorta? Everyone happens to hear these wines ordered and often a simple area of origin is confused with a whole category of wines. 

Prosecco, initially very popular in the Veneto region, where it originated, is today the best known and most sold Italian wine in the world. To be precise, by the way, we usually generalise and call the grape variety itself by this term, while the correct denomination is glera, which, like any other grape, can be vinified in many different ways. When it is made into sparkling wine, according to the specifications, we obtain prosecco. This is characterised by aromatic notes with floral or fruity hints such as pear, green apple or melon. 

It is important to remember that not all proseccos are sparkling wines: as we have seen, spumante is a category of wine in its own right, produced through a specific method, prosecco is a wine.

uva glera

For Franciacorta, however, we return to the same case history as Champagne: this is primarily a wine-growing area in Lombardy, near Brescia. By speaking of Franciacorta, we are therefore referring to an area of production and then to high-quality sparkling wines characterised by a refined and persistent perlage. The aromas of Franciacorta DOCG are reminiscent of roasted aromas and are predominantly fruity, with notes of peach, lemon and white cherry.

Now that your ideas are clearer, you won’t get lost in a sea of bubbles. So all that remains is to toast…cheers!

vigneto Franciacorta