Ready for a bit of terminology? In the world of sparkling wine traditional method and tank method fermentation are the most common ways to intensify and stimulate bubble action in wine through secondary fermentation. It’s not quite so simple, but it is generally fair to associate traditional method with Champagne and tank method with Prosecco. Tank method is also called Charmat method, metodo Martinotti, metodo Charmat-Martinotti and metodo italiano.
Sparkling wine is a relatively modern gift to the world. Centuries of farmy Veneto wines were naturally slightly sparkling, but the real innovations came in Rennaisance Europe when those sparse bubbles intensified into a new category of wine altogether, one which is most strongly associated with France. Snobs like to test people to see if they’re “wowed” by the term Charmat and, what’s worse, I’ve had several conversations with French folks who claim Prosecco is artificially carbonated, though that’s not the case. I grade those friends with an A+ in nationalism and D- in enology, since tank method still depends on the natural fermentation of sugar and yeast in a pressurized tank. In other words, the wine is not simply carbonated after the fact, as is the case for the lowest level of sparkling in France, Italy, the United States and elsewhere. In addition, not all Prosecco is made through the Charmat method, it’s just the most classic method and expression.
Charmat method was employed in France by Eugène Charmat around 1907, but in 1885 a similar method was used by Federico Martinotti and likely earlier by Antonio Carpenè who founded the Veneto’s most important wine school in Conegliano in 1873 and was according to many the first to employ the tank method in Italy. Steels tanks explain why Prosecco has been a democratically enjoyed beverage since the early 20th century and continues to be approachable and affordable. Typically tank method wines are not aged and are not fermented in the bottle like Champagne. This is a big reason why Prosecco is less expensive and generally light-spirited since when a wine is not aged, the tradition is to drink the new vintage!