WHAT A LONG HISTORY …
… that of man and “Spumante” wine. While researching new ways of conserving food produce to last throughout the year, man has come across all kinds of natural phenomena, amongst which the discovery of fermentation. At first nobody knew what caused it, but it was readily exploited to individual needs and tastes. And it didn’t take long to discover that a liquid in fermentation, when hermetically sealed, becomes effervescent. There are numerous accounts of the use of sparkling wines in ancient times.
We find the use of sparkling wine documented in the Eneid. It is written that Ceasar and Cleopatra were served “spumantem Falernum” during a banquet. The sparkling wines of the Romans were called “Aigleucos” and “Acinatici” according to the different fermentation methods employed and we even have an example of this found in the ruins of ancient Pompei. Many terracotta amphorae containing 200 to 300 litres, known as doliums, were sealed with cork, tar and ash over which cold water ran continually. In spring the amphorae were exposed to the heat to complete the fermentation process, which, being airtight, made the wine pleasantly bubbly.
We can also find later references in the 12th century medical text Regimen Sanitatis written by the Scuola Medica Salernitana. Here wine with bubbles is recommended “because it helps digestion” (transl.).
During the Renaissance many texts discuss the health benefits of Spumante wine, often with opposing views on the matter, as can be seen from the writings of the agronomist from Brescia, Agostino Gallo, the philosopher and medic Andrea Bacci from the Marche in De Naturali Vinorum Historia, the medic from Fabriano, Francesco Girolamo Conforto in Libellus de Vini Mordaci , where different methods of making Spumante wine are described.
The oenologist Ubaldo Rosi, born in 1799 in Gubbio, was responsible for successfully producing Spumante wine in Jesi, the birth town of Frederick II of Svevia, using airtight wine barrels. However, the approach towards its production was still rather haphazard due to a lack of scientific knowledge on the subject. They were in fact unaware of the existence of yeast, microorganisms that thrive on vegetable peel and form the basis of all fermentation methods, and of the importance of sugars on which yeast feed. Centuries later, a series of events gave rise to the improvement of Spumante production techniques and many people helped over time to perfect the system, leading to its effective commercialisation.
Legend has it that the French friar Dom Perignon discovered the Methode Champenoise (known as the Metodo Classico in Italy) in 1670. However there is no doubt that the best method for removing the sediments from the Spumante wine at the end the ageing process in bottles is thanks to the work of the famous widow Nicole Barbe Cicquot-Ponsardin and her wine-maker Antoine De Muller around 1818. Not only did this method produce clearer wine in the wine glasses, but it also reduced waste in the wine cellars. This was because the wine lost during the “degorgement” method, which could be up to half a bottle, could be recovered with the addition of a modest amount of sweetened wine, as suited the taste of clients in those times.
In 1830, the farmacist Andre Francois from Chalons sur Marne developed a formula quantifying the amount of sugar needed to obtain bubbles without creating pressure greater than the resistance of the glass bottles. But even up to1850 bottles of Spumante wine continued to explode frequently, until the pressure resistant thick glass bottle design, patented by the Englishman Kenelm Digby in 1630, became widely used in France. However, the use of cork bottle tops was common in Europe and their use was mentioned even by Shakespeare in 1600.
While researching fermentation methods in the mid eighteen hundreds, Louis Pasteur discovered that it was yeast, feeding on sugars, that produced alcohol and carbon dioxide. In the absence of air, the carbon dioxide gas remains in solution in the liquid but is released as bubbles once freed.
Since then it has been possible to refine recipes, continuously adapting them to the tastes of the times and to technological advances. For example, the perfection of fermentation in large pressurised containers in 1895 by Martinotti, the wine-making expert from the Asti school, refined in 1907 by the Frenchman Charmat who patented it. This method enabled the use of wines that could not be stored for long periods in bottles ( 3-6 months for the Charmat method as opposed to 36 months for the Classic method). Nowadays, the perfection of technology in wine cellars, such as the use of sterilized equipment and containers, allows us to elevate the quality of the wine without disregarding tradition. This is particularly true for organic farming, which can enhance the wine’s natural flavours. This is the fascinating heritage to which the Peruzzi family has made its modest contribution with great passion since 1988.