Simply put, there are three main methods to obtain bubbles in wine: the traditional or Champagne method, the Charmat method and carbonation.
But before going any further, let's recall the basics of the fermentation process. For a grape to become wine, sugar and yeast are needed. The latter converts sugar into alcohol, releasing energy in the form of carbon dioxide. The traditional and Charmat methods carry out a second fermentation of the wine and keep the precious CO2 captive to obtain sparkling wines.
The traditional method is the most expensive and the best in terms of quality. It takes more time in elaboration and requires space in the cellar, which makes it more expensive. Because of aging on the lees (inactive yeast), finest bubbles and complex aromas are formed, and higher quality is obtained. These aromas are often reminiscent of brioche, crumb or bread dough. This method can legally be used outside Champagne and many excellent winemakers all over the world produce their sparkling wines this way. Switzerland is no exception to this rule and sparkling wines produced according to the traditional method are available from almost all cantons. As a rule, you can find this information on the label of the bottles. So, read their contents carefully before buying!
The Charmat method is most often associated with the production of Prosecco de Veneto. As with the traditional method, bubbles are created during a second fermentation. The big difference is that this fermentation does not take place in the bottle, but in a larger tank. The lees are quickly filtered, which prevents the sparkling wines from aging. In exchange, the wine preserves the specific profile of the grape variety and its freshness.
Carbonation is the third method. It has become popular with consumers in recent years because the cost of production, and therefore the selling price, is far lower than for sparkling wines that use one of the other two methods. Here, bubbles are not created during the natural fermentation process but are inserted artificially, as one would do with a soda. Therefore, expectations cannot be the same. It is important to know the difference between sparkling wines produced by the various methods in order to make a conscious and deliberate choice when buying.