Bubbles, sparkling wine, sparkling wine, there are many names for this style of wine that we love to pop to celebrate or start a delicious dinner. They come in all shapes and sizes. Cava, prosecco, champagne, sparkling wine, chances are you've tasted one or more of these in your life. Now brace yourself. There is now a kind of bubble that is gaining a lot of popularity. Not necessarily because it is new and modern, on the contrary! This style of sparkling wine is precisely how the very first sparkling wine was ever made. Meet Ancestral.
WineStijn Over the Coll de Sitja Ancestral
The ancestral method (French: méthode ancestrale) is by far the oldest method of making sparkling wine, predating the traditional method by nearly 200 years, if not more. The wine now called Blanquette de Limoux is considered by wine historians to be the world's first sparkling wine and was produced in Limoux in 1531 by monks at the Monastery of Saint-Hilaire. Wines made using the ancestral method are sometimes referred to as pétillant-naturel, popularly abbreviated to pét-nat. Also just across the border in Catalonia, the ancestral has been made for centuries. Many (particularly small) wineries have picked up this tradition again and more ancestral wines are released every year.
What is the difference between this wine and the bubbles made according to the champagne method?
The alcoholic fermentation is not fully completed when the wine is bottled. It follows that the carbon dioxide is produced by the fermenting yeasts, and where malolactic fermentation has not yet taken place. Unlike the traditional method, there is no disgorging and dosing, but the wine is filtered normally. To achieve this, the bottles are emptied, cleaned and refilled. Traditionally, the bottle is then closed with a crown cap instead of a conventional cork.
The method generally produces wines that are highly aromatic with low alcohol content, sometimes as low as 6%. The wines are sometimes a bit obscure due to the remaining lees. They taste best 1-3 years after bottling and do not develop on further storage. The main challenge of the method is that the production process is difficult to control and therefore requires great skill from the winemaker. All the more clever if a winemaker manages to make very good ancestral. The volumes produced are very modest. High quality wines produced using the ancestral method, often by small growers using organic farming principles. They can be complex and very distinctive. They are perfect for use as an aperitif or as an accompaniment to complex dishes.
Want to try ancestral yourself? Take a look at our selection sparkling wines.