The Birth of Champagne

by / 18 October 2013 Uncategorized No Comments

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It is now proven that Dom Pérignon, the Saint Pierre D’Hauvillers Monastery prosecutor from 1668 until his death in 1715, was among the very first to adopt a rational method of wine making. Unfortunately, no written testimony at the hand of the Benedistine monk remains.

Dom Pérignon mostly contributed in developping the delicate art of assembling the freshly picked grappes. He was also among the very first, at least in the Champagne region, to use cork instead of hemp covered wood for a more effective plugging. The importance to suppress air inside the bottle for better wine conservation was well known since the Antique times.
At the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th, sparkling wines were widely unknown. Wines were elaborated and transported in barrels. After the grape harvests, and without any kind of sowing, the fermentation would begin naturally, more or less rapidly, depending on the temperature. The first to try to control this bubbling activity were the English, as early as the end of the 17th Century. Many elements prove that theory.

In a report called « Some Observations concerning the Ordering of Wines », handed over at the Royal Society in London on december 17th 1662, Doctor Christopher Morret, british physician and naturalist, claims that adding sugar and molasses to any kind of wine contribute to render them more alcoholic and more sparkling. Different types of spices could be added as well. Next to these technical observations, litterary sources certified the existence of sparkling wines in England. Several writings particularly mention effervescent wines from Champagne consumed in England.

It therefore appears as certain that, from 1660 on, more or less sparkling wines were in existence in England, made from Champagne wines imported in barrels. These wines were called « Brisk Champagne », or « Sparkling Champagne ; in the New English Dictionary at the beginning of the 18th Century, to sparkle means to knit in a glass and send forth small bubbles. Whereas in Champagne, even if sparkling wine existed, no man made intrervention was the cause of this phenomenon. It is only at the beginning of the 18th Century, with the manufacture of stronger bottles, that the Chanpagne people began developping this effervescence in a small part of their wine production.

Bruno Duteurtre

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