Wine has an incredibly rich history, and none is more interesting than sparkling wine. Often confused for champagne, which is actually the name of a particular style of sparkling wine from a region in France, this wine has captured the imagination and is associated with celebration, romance and success the world over. So the Buy Wine Online team have pulled out the history books and are sharing the reasons why historians buy sparkling wine. Or at least, love the story of its making!
Champagne, named after a famed region in North-eastern France, is probably the most well known sparkling wine region in the world. Debate still rages however on whether the first intentional sparkling wine was created in Champagne, in Limoux in the south of France or Spain. Even the English throw down the gauntlet and buy in on the sparkling wine history debate, citing the words of English writer Christopher Merrett who reported a “brisk and sparkling” wine based drink made from sugar and molasses in 1662, several decades before the first recorded story of the same from France. Regardless, in today’s market, there would be very few people who would think of the Union Jack when the idea of sparkling wine is mentioned!
One thing the English can take credit for is the invention of the technology to make sparkling wine a possibility. The coal fired furnaces of 1623 made a stronger glass bottle possible and this, together with the introduction as corks as a bottle sealing method set the stage for champagne. The French had until this point, favoured the use of hemp covered wooden bungs which would simply not have allowed for bottle born fermentation to produce the bubbles that make sparkling wine. The glass wine bottles available up until this point would have undoubtedly exploded through the gas pressure without the new ones forged by the English. So at the very least, there was certainly a level of technological input from the Brits.
The title for the “father” of sparkling wine undoubtedly goes to a 17th Century Abbott of the Hautvilliers Abbey of Champagne France by the name of Dom Perignon. With a deep interest in wine, Dom Perignon experimented with the blend of black and white grapes and red and white wine combinations to make the perfect champagne. His blending techniques also introduced the use of multi-region grape sourcing as he sought the right combination of bubble and flavour. Such care and devotion remains the cornerstone of the Dom Perignon stable today. The only drawback in his technique, and indeed technique of the time in all wine making, was a ghastly sludge of gunk in each bottle as a by-product of the fermentation process. And it remained part of wine making until the 19th century, when a woman stumbled across an alternative.
The widow of a champagne producer, Veuve Cliquot was certainly no stranger to sparkling wine. She was keen to refine the process and together with her cellar master Antoine de Muller, worked tirelessly on several possible solutions to the problem until finally coming to the realisation the offending gunk could be shaken down the bottle, frozen and then removed. This technique continues to this day, with the only significant difference being instead of men shaking the bottles, it is now machines.