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Who invented Champagne?
Who invented champagne?
It may come a shock - especially to some French people, - but champagne is an English invention. Anyone who has ever made their own ginger ale is well aware that fermentation produces bubbles naturally. The trick is in controlling it.
It chanced upon a time in the 16th century that the English developed a taste for fizzy wine. They began importing barrels of green, flat wine from Champagne, France and then adding sugar and molasses to start it fermenting. To match the results they got, they also devised the strong coal-fired glass bottles and corks to contain the wine.
According to the records of the Royal Society, what is now called méthode champenoise was first put on paper in England in 1662. It was not until the end of the 19th century that the French perfected the modern dry or brut style, and adding finesse and marketing flair to their product started exporting champagne to England. Where else?
The UK's taste for champagne
Up to this day, the UK remains France’s most thirsty customer for champagne. In 2008 35,984,574 bottles were exported to the UK, less than half as many bottles were handed over to the second largest importer, the US, and three times less as much was exported to Germany. Source
Dom Pérignon's contribution to champagne
The Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon (1638–1715) did not invent champagne: in fact he spent most of his life trying to remove the bubbles from the wine. The famous exclamation, “Come quickly, I am drinking the stars,” was devised for advertisement purposes and attributed to him in the late 19th century. Dom Pérignon’s real legacy to champagne was in the skillful concoction of grape varieties from different vineyards and the use of a hempen cage or wire for the cork.
Due to a legal loophole Americans can also call their sparkling wines champagne. The Treaty of Madrid in 1891 stated that only producers in the Champagne region are allowed to use the name. This was also reaffirmed by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, but the US signed a completely separate peace agreement with Germany. After prohibition was lifted, American merchants took advantage of this situation and engaged in shameless selling of their own champagne to the annoyance of the French.
Marie Antoinette's contribution to champagne
Contrary to popular belief, the saucer-like coupe from which champagne is often drunk was first manufactured in England in 1663, well before Marie Antoinette’s time, therefore it could not be based on a mold of her breast. The English are yet to suggest an alternative topless model for the coupe.