4 days ago
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
The province of Champagne in northern France gave its name to this distinctive vintage when vintners there realized that their climate was not able to produce the heavy, full-bodied reds that could rival the acclaimed Burgundian wines to the south, and turned instead to making lighter white wines of superlative quality. Reims Cathedral, where the Kings of France were traditionally crowned, was in the Champagne province and so it became traditional to serve Champagne wines for the occasion; but when did the wine become the beverage we know today?
In 1531 the monks of the Abbey of Saint Hilaire produced the first sparkling wine, called Blanquette de Limoux, when they added sugar to the mix to induce a second fermentation, which in turn created bubbles of gas in the liquid. The force of the pent up gas was so great that bottles frequently popped or blew their corks, just as they do today. It was the monk Dom Perignon, now synonymous with champagne, who invented the wire collar that helps to keep them corked, as before his improvement those working with the bottles were forced to wear protective masks of iron to prevent injury.
Though the bubbles were initially seen as a fault by the French monks who made the wine, the English to whom they also sold the vintage, took a liking to them and soon the French court followed suit, making Champagne the beverage of royalty, and soon the rising middle class adopted this status symbol as well.
So break out the bottles; and whether you choose a coupe or a flute, let's toast to the joys behind us and the pleasures yet to come!