Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Martinotti Method, not Charmat!


It is interesting to learn, an Italian, Martinotti invented the Charmat method, which was then copied, “stolen” and made famous under the name of that Frenchman, Charmat.

We have done a true disservice to Federico Martinotti, director of the Enological Experimentation Institute of Asti in the ‘20’s. He was the inventor of what we call today Methode Charmat. He was THE inventor of the controlled fermentation method in autoclaves to create Spumanti. His method promised Spumanti with fruity notes, often sweet, by means of pressurized metal containers. This method became extremely popular given the speed with which a Spumanti could be produced as well as the economics of the method versus that of Champenoise also known as the classic method.

It was actually Martinotti who patented the autoclave in 1895 and then Eugène Charmat after the 1900’s who spread the method by implementing large containers for autoclaving. The correct name is and should be, metodo Martinotti-Charmat however if we give to Friar Dom Perignon the experimentation and success of fermentation in bottles for that wonderful sensation of classic spumante (alias Champagne), then truly, recognition should go to the Italian, Martinotti for his non-bottle method of fermentation.

The same grapes used for the classic method can be used for the Martinotti – Charmat method however this method renders softer colors, along the lines of straw with a tiny hint of green, fresher flavors and less structured at the same time as well as, less intense bouquets thus, the favored grapes for Spumanti are, Moscat
o, Prosecco, Malvasia and Brachetto.

The whole process is done in a large autoclave with the addition of selected yeasts and syrups but in a shorter amount of time re-fermentation is achieved and this is where the infamous Prosecco del Trevigiano arise. In fact, Asti is achieved from one fermentation, interrupting it in the middle of the fermentation. The first phase is stopped when 6-8 % alcohol have been achieved then, in a second autoclave the second fermentation occurs until it reaches 7,5 – 9% alcohol. The wine is then cooled to minus 4 degrees centigrade and transferred to a third autoclave for bottling. For the drier Spumanti, the Charmat lungo method is used, which requires a longer time on the “fecce.”

I conclude this with a nod to an old typical dance from the field workers of Polesine:

"…Xe quasi trent'anni che fo' l'campanaro E come un somaro me toca tirar Quando fo' don, don ,don Mando zo' le mie passion Quanto fo' din, din , din Me consolo col buon vin!…"

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