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Semi-sparkling Wine

Pleasant and gastronomic, with an extraordinary ease of drinking, semi-sparkling wines are the inseparable table companions of every good gourmet. Technically speaking, these wines contain carbon dioxide but have a lower pressure inside the bottle than sparkling wines. They are produced with the Charmat or Martinotti method to guarantee vivacity and brilliance, aromatic clarity and simplicity of taste, or with the ancient practice of re-fermentation in the bottle. Whether they are more or less intense, light like a Pignoletto, richer like a Lambrusco, lightly sweetened like Bonarda, dry like Gutturnio or sweet and aromatic like Moscato, each variety represents the most spontaneous, simple and captivating soul of the wine world, offering lively and satisfying taste experiences.

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Pleasant and gastronomic, with an extraordinary ease of drinking, semi-sparkling wines are the inseparable table companions of every good gourmet. Technically speaking, these wines contain carbon dioxide but have a lower pressure inside the bottle than sparkling wines. They are produced with the Charmat or Martinotti method to guarantee vivacity and brilliance, aromatic clarity and simplicity of taste, or with the ancient practice of re-fermentation in the bottle. Whether they are more or less intense, light like a Pignoletto, richer like a Lambrusco, lightly sweetened like Bonarda, dry like Gutturnio or sweet and aromatic like Moscato, each variety represents the most spontaneous, simple and captivating soul of the wine world, offering lively and satisfying taste experiences.

The Origins of Semi-Sparkling Wines

The history of semi-sparkling wines is closely linked to that of sparkling wines, sharing the same production methods. What differentiates them is primarily the internal pressure in the bottle: no less than 3 bars for sparkling wines and between 1 and 2.5 bars for semi-sparkling wines, at a temperature of 20°C.

The origin of bubbles in fermented grape juice is very ancient, as its existence is documented in the Book of Psalms and then by Homer, Virgil, Horace, Propertius, Lucan and Pliny the Elder. In ancient Roman times, two main types were known: Aigleucos was a sweet nectar mixed with honey, produced in sealed terracotta amphoras and placed in cold water in order to stop fermentation and keep the carbon dioxide inside the container; Ancinatico on the other hand was a must of dried grapes partially fermented in sealed amphoras. These types were also known by the names "spumenscens", "titillans" and "saliens", indicating the lively vivacity of the carbon dioxide bubbles.

Other important evidence of this type can be found in modern times, in the 16th century, in the writings of the Veronese doctor Girolamo Fracastoro, Andrea Bacci, doctor of Pope Sixtus V, and Girolamo Conforti. In the meantime, the creation of resistant glass bottles paved the way, during the 17th century, for the practice of refermentation in the bottle and, in France, for the birth of the champenoise method.

The carbon dioxide bubbles have thus travelled through the centuries and accompanied human gastronomic habits from ancient times. The phenomenon of carbon dioxide formation has always been considered mysterious, fortuitous and random until Pasteur's research into the fermentation process, which revealed that the phenomenon was due to the action of yeasts transforming sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide.

 

The Modern Production Methods

Today, there are essentially two production methods for obtaining white wines with bubbles, both based on the practice of fermentation in hermetically sealed containers, as the ancient Romans did with amphoras to prevent the carbon dioxide from dissolving in the air. The Charmat or Martinotti Method involves fermentation in an autoclave, i.e. in hermetically sealed steel containers.

The method of spontaneous re-fermentation in the bottle, which is closely linked to farming culture and traditions, involves bottling fermented must that still contains a slight residual sugar, in order to allow a second fermentation in the bottle, which usually takes place in spring when temperatures rise. Legally, there is also a third possibility, namely that of artificially adding carbon dioxide, but this procedure does not apply to the production of high quality wines.



Varieties of Semi-Sparkling Wines

The wines of this category represent the most lively, simple and carefree essence of the wine world. They can be found in almost all of Italy and are traditionally linked to farming culture and the practice of re-fermentation in the bottle, which in the past was not always desired and very often fortuitous. Some specialities are closely associated with this category, starting with the classic Piedmontese sparkling wine, Moscato Bianco, followed by the Lambrusco wines of Emilia and the red wines of Oltrepò Pavese such as Bonarda, Sangue di Giuda and Pinot Nero vinified in white.

The region traditionally most associated with the production of semi-sparkling wine is Emilia, which boasts many white and red specialities produced using both the Martinotti method and spontaneous re-fermentation in the bottle. In the Piacentino area, Barbera and Croatina are used to produce the dry and tannic Gutturnio, as well as the lively and enjoyable Ortrugo. The hills of Reggio Emilia, Parma and Modena are the centres of Lambrusco, in all its variants, and of Malvasia di Candia, sweet or dry, often with bubbles. Finally, the Bolognese territory is the home of Pignoletto, simple and pleasant to drink.

In general, the expressions of this type are always pleasant, straightforward, versatile and very gastronomic. The drier or slightly lighter versions are perfect with cured meats, sausages, and fried, fatty and succulent but not excessively structured foods. Sweeter wines, such as Moscato d'Asti or Sangue di Giuda, can be served with desserts with yeast dough, tarts or fruit cakes. The sparkling wine Prosecco, capable of enhancing the aromatic characteristics of food and usually served with hors d'oeuvres, vegetables, but also with desserts, is not to be forgotten.

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