A history of Champagne written by Tom Freer.
This a story of two Countries, the Royal Society, a widow and a coal fired oven.
There has always been a long love affair with champagne in England. So, who put the fizz into wine? Papers found in the royal society claim that an English scientist Christopher Merrett in 1662 Presented a paper titled how to put the fizz into sparkling wine. Merrett described how English winemakers had been adding sugar to wines to give them a refreshing, bubbly quality - 30 years before Dom Perignon.
"Our wine coopers of recent times use vast quantities of sugar and molasses to all sorts of wines to make them drink brisk and sparkling and to give them spirit,"
Early wine produced in champagne had the issue of the bottles exploding under the pressure of second fermentation. This was due to the bottles being made in wood fired ovens. In England in the early 1600’s coal was used to fire the ovens, they burned hotter resulting in a stronger bottle that could withstand the pressure of the second fermentation. The use of cork imported from Portugal to seal the bottles stopping gases escaping started to become very popular in England. By 1740 moulding techniques had arrived, which allowed for the production of identical bottles and standardized corks. Suddenly the fizz could be contained.
Dom Perignon was a winemaker from Hautvillers who was in search of ways to eliminate the bubble in his still wines. This changed when he opened a bottle of wine that had continued to ferment in the bottle. When opened the cork popped out and the wine fizzed and sparkled. He was thrilled with the taste and the little bubbles tickling his nose. He called out to the other monks, “Brothers, come quickly – I’m drinking stars!” Dom Perignon went on to develop a method that is still used today. In 1815, another key innovation arrived from a Champagne producer known as the Widow Cliquot. Champagne’s in-bottle fermentation clouds the wine with dead yeast. Cliquot’s innovation was to turn the bottles neck-down and let the yeast settle in the neck in a process known as remuage or riddling, this made it easier to remove the dead yeast resulting in a clear drink.
With such a great back story no wonder the sound of a champagne cork popping is a great way to celebrate any occasion.