When experts refer to the bubbles in a sparkling wine, they often use the term ‘bead.’ This refers to the pearl-like string of carbon dioxide that is created during a process called second alcoholic fermentation. When we open a sekt bottle, there is an abrupt drop in pressure that returns the carbon dioxide, otherwise dissolved in the wine, to its gassy state. These small, fine bubbles then come together in a sustained chain (the bead) that is visible to us in the glass as it rises to the surface of the wine. To reinforce this effect, some sparkling wine glasses also feature what is known as an effervescence point (in German: Moussierpunkt). This involves leaving a rough imperfection on one tiny portion of the glass.
From a chemical standpoint, all CO₂ is identically structured. Yet in practice, its behavior on the palate is influenced by countless parameters in the wine. A “fine” bead is only found in well-produced sparkling wines, since the characteristics of the bubbles are significantly affected by the way it is produced and the length of lees contact. This is why we give our sekts a minimum of 36 – and in some cases as many as 120 – months to form an especially fine bead. All we can say is that the wait is worth it. For these bubbles provide an elegant, gentle, and nuanced tingle on the palate, seducing you into a feeling of wellbeing.
So how exactly is the carbon dioxide created during the second alcoholic fermentation?
Quality sparkling wine always undergoes two rounds of fermentation, with a minimum pressure of 3.5 bars and 10 percent alcohol. To trigger the second alcoholic fermentation, the sekt base wine is injected with a new dose of a sugar-and-yeast solution (known as the liqueur de tirage). Three different techniques are available for the second fermentation, with traditional bottle fermentation considered the highest quality—and most complicated—method. We’ve been true believers in the technique for 40 years.
Traditional (or classic) bottle fermentation was once known as the Champagne method. It calls for the second fermentation, during which base wine is converted into sekt, to occur in the individual bottle. A thick-walled sparkling wine bottle is used, typically sealed with a crown cork. In Germany, this kind of quality sparkling wine must be given at least nine months of lees contact. As already indicated, Raumland sekts spend at least 36 months on the lees—and the Grande Réserve sekts are granted no less than 120 months. Thereafter the individual bottles are riddled and the yeast deposit is removed (known as disgorging).
During the second alcoholic fermentation, the active yeast convert any sugar they find into alcohol—with CO2 (carbon dioxide) created as a byproduct. Because the bottle is sealed with a crown cork, the carbon dioxide cannot escape and dissolves into the wine in the bottle.
Traditional bottle fermentation is used in the following sparkling wines:
- Sekt (for members of the Verband der Traditionellen Sektmacher and for VDP.Sekt and VDP.Sekt.Prestige)
- Spumante–Método Classico
What should I look for when buying a sekt?
There are pluses and minus to each of the different techniques for making sekt. If, however, you are looking for a high-quality sparkling wine that is not overly defined by fruit aromas and which features a fine bead, then we recommend always looking for an indication of the traditional or classic bottle fermentation method on the label, also known as the Méthode Traditionnelle. Please note: If the label only mentions ‘bottle fermentation,’ then the sekt was created using the transversage method.
A variety of laws govern the minimum production timeframes and lees aging requirements for sparkling wines. More on this can be found below.
|PRODUCTION METHOD||LOCATION OF SECOND FERMENTATION||MINIMUM DURATION OF LEES CONTACT|
|Germany: Traditional bottle fermentation / Classic bottle fermentation / Método Classico / Méthode Traditionnelle||Bottle||9 months|
|Germany: Sektmacher Reserve (Verband Traditioneller Sektmacher)||Bottle||36 months|
|Germany: VDP.Sekt.Statut||Bottle||VDP.Sekt: 15 months VDP.Sekt.Prestige: 36 months|
|Germany: Bottle Fermentation (Transversage method)||Bottle (incl. transfer into large tanks)||9 months, 90 days|
|Tank fermentation||Pressure tank||6 months 90 days (without stirrer) 30 days (with stirrer)|
|Franciacorta Spumante||Bottle||Non-vintage: 18 months Satèn: 24 months Rosé: 24 months Millesimato: 30 months Riserva: 60 months|
|Champagne||Bottle||Non-vintage: 15 months Millésime: 36 months|
|Cava||Bottle||Cava: 9 months Cava Reserva: 18 months Cava Gran Reserva: 30 months Cava de Paraje Calificado: 36 months|
|Prosecco||Tank||No requirements. Production 30 days (incl. second fermentation)|
|English Sparkling Wine||Bottle||9 months|
|CAP Classique (South Africa)||Bottle||12 months|
|Raumland Sekt||Bottle||Sekt Tradition: 36 months Sekt Réserve: 90 months Sekt Grande Réserve: 120 months|