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What does ‘frizzante’ mean? Ask Decanter

Have you ever looked at frizzante, shown on a sparkling bottle, and wondered what it means? And how it differs from spumante? Ask Decanter is here to answer.

You might have looked at a supermarket shelf to find, baffled, one bottle of Prosecco labelled as ‘frizzante’ and another, next to it, labelled as ‘spumante’. Are they any different? Are both of them authentic Proseccos?

They certainly are. Both frizzante and spumante are sparkling wines but differ in the level of effervescence, i.e. the amount and strength of the bubbles. Wines labelled as ‘frizzante’ are only gently sparkling, while wines labelled as ‘spumante’ have more fizz to it.

According to EU regulations:

  • Frizzante wines have between 1 and 2.5 bars of pressure at 20˚C. They are defined as semi-sparkling by law and are classified and taxed as still wines.
  • Spumante wines have a minimum of 3 bars of pressure at 20˚C. For quality sparkling wine, for example, one with a PDO or DOC, the minimum pressure is 3.5. Most fully sparkling wines, such as champagne, crémant or sekt, are sold with a pressure of between 5 and 6 atmospheres.

How is frizzante made

There are two ways in which a winemaker can affect the amount of fizz in a sparkling wine: the winemaking method and the amount of sugar added at the second fermentation or tirage stage. This in turn will affect the amount of sugar that the yeasts transform into alcohol, a process during which carbon dioxide is released and trapped inside the wine making those delightful bubbles.

In the case of carbonation, they need simply to control the amount of gas dissolved in the wine.

‘The bubbles can come from partial fermentation or refermentation, in vat or bottle,’ said Richard Baudains, Decanter World Wine Awards regional chair for Veneto.

Frizzante wines are most commonly a result of second fermentation in tank (also called the charmat method). This is the process used for most Prosecco wines and, by arresting fermentation before all the sugar is transformed into alcohol, a less fizzy and slightly sweet wine can be produced. Instead of a second fermentation there can be a ‘refermentation’, which is effectively the conclusion of the first alcoholic fermentation previously arrested (usually by cooling the liquid) to then trap the carbon dioxide during the conclusion of the process.

If this refermentation happens in bottle we have what is called a ‘Rifermentato’, a very popular style among lovers of lower intervention wines. These are often a bit cloudy given that the remaining dead yeasts are still in suspension inside the bottle – like in an undisgorged champagne.

Styles and regions to look out for:

    • – Prosecco – although Prosecco can also be spumante (all those at DOC and DOCG level are required to be fully sparkling)
    • – Lambrusco, Emilia-Romagna
    • – Moscato d’Asti (taste an Asti Spumante alongside to fully understand the difference in fizz levels)
    • – Single-varietal Freisa, Piedmont

When to drink frizzante

‘Generalising a bit, you could say frizzanti are a good choice when you want a joyful, quintessentially Italian, democratically priced wine that you can cheerfully polish off a bottle of,’ said Baudains. ‘But some frizzanti are food wines – such as Lambrusco; others are aperitifs – like Prosecco; and others are dessert wines, such as Asti.’

Frizzantes, namely rifermentatos, can have incredible texture and accompany a variety of dishes, from tapas to rich salads or roast chicken.

And does the level of fizz change the flavour of the wine itself? Strictly speaking, the amount of carbon dioxide does not affect a wine’s flavour. It can, however, affect our perception of aroma and flavour compounds. On the other hand, frizzante is generally intended as a fresh, openly aromatic, fruit-driven style, markedly different from traditional method sparkling (such as Champagne or Franciacorta) in which secondary and tertiary aromas, derived from winemaking and ageing, tend to predominate. ‘All frizzanti are made from grapes with distinctive varietal characters, by processes that aim to keep in the fruit and aroma, so they are [often] tasty wines,’ confirms Baudains.

What is frizzante called outside Italy

Semi-sparkling styles are, of course, not exclusive to Italy.

Here is a brief breakdown of the styles and nomenclature in other countries:

  • Spain – as vino de aguja – Txakoli, from the Basque country, produces great examples, with incredible mineral drive and salinity.
  • Portugal – as vinho frizante – Vinho Verde is the quintessential example, producing gently prickly wines, both white and red, ideal for summer drinking.
  • France – as vin pétillant – gently fizzy Muscadet is an absolute classic, perfect alongside an oyster platter. And Pét-nat (pétillant naturel) has had a exciting comeback, now featuring in wine bars across the globe.
  • Germany – as perlwein.

See also

Asti and Moscato d’Asti: expert’s choice

Prosecco vs Champagne: What’s the difference? Ask Decanter

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