The classic method sparkling wine refermented in bottle, which we know today, has had a very long historical evolution and at the same time it is rich in experimentation.
In the course of the centuries man has perfected the methodology by acquiring technical and scientific knowledge.
12.000 /10.000 B.C.
Let’s imagine that the first sparkling wine is born fortuitously when an ancestral vine farmer noticed that his own wine resumed to ferment thanks to the spring heat.
From 3500 B.C. to 476 A.D.
Probably, the first testimony we find it in the Book of Psalms of the Holy Bible, where it reads that “a cup where wine foams is supported by the hands of Javhè” (Psalm 75, verse 8-9).
From the texts of the ancient Latins, Virgilio (70- 19 B.C), Properzio (47 B.C – 15 B.C), Lucano (39 A.D. – 65 A.D.), Columella (4 A.D.-70 A.D.) and Plinio Il Vecchio (23 A.D.-79 A.D.) it is clear that the “Enotria tellus” is the original home of the sparkling wine and the Romans produced bullulae with two techniques of programmed reference.
For the sparkling wines called “aigleucos” Romans used a must kept sweet with the addition of honey and propoli instead for the sparkling wines called “acinatici ” they used a must made from withered grapes that was used alone or for the reference of other “tranquilli” wines. In both cases the fermentation was delayed by dipping the dolia, sealed tightly with cork, pitch and ash, in cold water and then they were transported, before drink, to warm places and exposed to the fumes of the kitchens for the wine to complete the maturation.
From 476 A.D. to 1492
After the fall of the Roman Empire, due to the Barbaric invasions, the grapevines farming became the exclusive privilege of monasteries. References for sparkling wine are found in the famous Regimen Sanitatis of the Salernitana School (early 12th century) where the qualities of a healthy wine that must be: ” claris, vetus, subtile, maturum ac bene linfato, saliens, moderamine sumptum” (Old and clear, sparkling but hardened, and calmly used) and in the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Hilaire where a wine was produced “sweet, warm, effervescent.”
In this golden century many “mordenti” wines are produced in Italy and the Pontifical State. Writers, biologists and doctors cite and inform on the techniques, although rather empirical, of these effervescent wines. Andrea Bacci (1524 – 1600), famous Elpidian physician of Papa Sisto V, in his work “De Naturali Vinorum Historia” testifies that in many Italian territories were produced sparkling wines, from the present region of Emilia-Romagna to the province of Pavia, calling them “delittuous biting, soft-smelling and sparkling wine for golden bubbles. In addition to Bacci, a German physician and naturalist Philipp Jacob Sachs (1627 – 1672) writes, in his book of ampelography and enography, which in Insubria (Lombardia) many people produced a wine “with a pleasant taste called Picante that carried out and released, in the crocco (bowl) where it was poured, subulliens bullis of bright pink color”: probably the first rosé sparkling wine in history, it was obtained from “pignole” grapes raised in the province of Pavia.
The 1600 marks three turning points that change the history of sparkling wine:
1st the replacement of Roman dolia with pressure-resistant glass containers – produced in 1632 by the English Sir Kenelm Digby-.
2nd the replacement of the corking with clay and pitch with corks clousures.
3rd the birth in London of the first sparkling wine made from Champagne’s still wine. The historian French Andrè Simon (1877 – 1970) who tells us about this unusual birth. At the end of the 1600s Europe suffered a major wine crisis and was forced to sell large quantities of still bulk wine to England at very low prices. The shrewd London traders understand that to increase sales they would have to mitigate the strong acidity and make the wine coming from France more drinkable, then add sugar, various spices such as cinnamon and cloves before bottling. The London success of these soft and sweet sparkling wines prompted Champagne winemakers to specialize in the technique of sparkling winemaking.
1750 – 1900
In these centuries many winegrowers, technicians and scholars contributed to the perfecting of the methodology of the “programmed re-fermentation” discovered by the ancient Romans, scientifically explaining its chemical and physical processes.
At the end of the 1700s, studies began on the role of sugars and yeasts in planned fermentation. The first publication that relates the weight of sugar contained in wine, the production of carbon dioxide and the consequent rupture of bottles was by pharmacist Francois of Chalon-sur-Marne in 1837.
The first studies on fermentation are by an Italian Giovanni Fabbroni (1752-1822), taken up by Lenoir in 1828 and defined by Pasteur (1822 – 1895). The latter is able to demonstrate that yeast is made up of micro-organisms and therefore alcoholic fermentation is not just a chemical phenomenon. He discovers that the cells in good wine are spherical and those of bad wine are longer and therefore concludes that the elongated ones do not serve to produce alcohol and should be eliminated to avoid acidation.
A further step forward is thanks to Hansen (1842 – 1909), a Danish mycologist, who can reproduce the yeasts inpure culture from a single cell and then have monoclonal strains used for re-fermentation.
The physical phenomenon of bubbles is explained in 1884 by the law of thermodynamic balance of the chemist French Henri Louis Le Chatelier. The law establishes the obligation of a necessary and constant balance between the molecules of gas present in the wine being steamed, in our sparkling wine those found in the air portion under the cork of the bottle, and those dissolved in wine. When we uncork the bottle of sparkling wine the gas under the cork disperses and the balance provided by the law of thermodynamic balance breaks. In a vain attempt to restore it, the gas present in the wine pushes upwards generating the sparkling bubbles.
The sparkling wine arrives with no more scientific secrets to the 1900s where the bottles no longer explode, the crown caps guarantee greater sealing during aging and the bottles can rest for years waiting to be uncorked to delight our palate, amuse our minds and magically surprise our spirit.