It’s the end of the year. It’s a time to reflect and celebrate and it’s also a time for Champagne. More Champagne corks are popped during the festive season than at any other time of the year.
Champagne isn’t all about the bubbles. It is a type of sparkling wine but only sparkling wine made from the grapes from the region of Champagne in France can be called Champagne. Everyone else has to call it something else.
The bubbles in Champagne and their equivalents are bubbles of carbon dioxide being released. In each glass of Champagned consumed there are over 600 chemical compounds that join with the carbon dioxide creating the aroma and flavour of the drink.
Legend has it that French Benedictine monk Dom Pierre Pérignon invented sparkling wine in the cellars of Abbey of Hautvillers. He didn’t. He did advance the development of the production of Champagne such as the muselet, you know the bit of wire over the cork to hold it in place to prevent the fermentation pressure from pushing the cork out. The explosive quality of Champagne resulted in the wine to be called le vin du diable, (the Devil’s wine). Bottles would explode causing bottles around them to explode, an event that does not lend itself to making a profit. Dom Pérignon was originally given the responsibility of removing the bubbles because of the number of bottles bursting in the cellar.
So who invented sparkling wine? It wasn’t just one person and it was a series of developments from different people, (including Dom Pérignon), that led to Champagne. The oldest recorded sparkling wine is Blanquette de Limoux that was created by Benedictine monks at the Abbey of Saint Hilaire near Carcossone in 1531. Then in 1662, six years before Dom Pérignon entered the Abbey of Hautvillers’ cellar, an English scientist and physician, Christopher Merret presented a paper titled, Some Observations Concerning the Ordering of Wines to The Royal Society. He detailed the addition of sugar and molasses to wine to make it sparkling. This method in modern times is called the Methode Champenoise, a method to induce the second fermentation in wines without worrying about bottles exploding.
Happy New Year!