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The History around Champagne

» From the beginning of the Middle Age, the region of Champagne, in France, hosted large vineyards in spite of freezing winter draughts. The area was full of monasteries that stimulated the growing of grapevines and the export of its wines, famous for their excellent quality and purity. In those days, wine was still, pale and had an intense aroma with an annoying trend to bubbling, which was considered a defect of the production process.

» Bubbles are the result of a natural accident as a consequence of the cold weather in the region, which makes young wine ferment in spring, when the temperature begins to rise. The domain of this second fermentation and the numerous advances in the production and bottling processes of these wines allowed champagne to access the range of King of Wines, a symbol of aristocracy and celebration in all countries of the world.

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» As an invention, it is little likely that a wine such as champagne has had just one creator, but investigators point out Dom Pierre Pérignon as the mentor of such valued delicacy. Pérignon, a Benedictine monk and manager of the Hautvillers Abbey, in the region of Champagne, had large areas of vineyards. He observed that, due to the harsh weather conditions in the region, wine fermentation in the barrel was interrupted by cold temperatures before all sugar was consumed, and it was resumed with the arrival of spring. However, at that point wine was already bottled and turned into a tumultuous wine due to the presence of carbon dioxide.

» Dom Pérignon was interested in the carbon dioxide produced after the second fermentation of wine in the bottle, which until then had been considered a defect of the wine.

» To make it possible, it was necessary to use a blockhead cork cap that could bear gas pressure, as well as bottles of higher thickness, weight and solidity.

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» “¡Vennez vite mes fréres, je bois des étolies!” (Come quickly brothers, I’m drinking the stars!) were his words when that bubbly drink caressed his palate for the first time.

» That’s how the Benedictine monk Pérignon is credited with the improvement of the Champenoise method, the production of white wine from red grapes, and the perfectionism of the working methods published in 1718 such as Taking Good Care of the Vineyard and the Champagne Wine.

He might not have been responsible for the invention, but his contributions were fundamental to achieving the excellence of the sparkling wine such as we know it today.

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» Madame Clicquot is another key character in the history of champagne. After her husband’s death, as a consequence of a strong disease, she inherited his small wine business in Reims. She observed that dregs built up in the cork cap and thought that if they stayed there, they could be eliminated without having any negative effects for the rest of the wine. In 1816, she orders a table perforated with holes that would allow introducing bottles in an inverted position, which is nowadays known as a shaking table. This way, it was possible to eliminate the deposits that remained close to the cork with only uncorking the bottle to spill a minimum amount of liquid.

» Some years later, she added to this disgorgement technique a new but not less important one: by softly moving the bottle, residues deposited at the bottom were removed thus allowing them to reach the cork so they could later be removed. This technique, which is known today as stirring up, is critical so that the sparkling wine is clear in plain sight and soft to the palate.

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