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The History of Champagne

"I only drink Champagne when I'm happy, and when I'm sad. Sometimes I drink it when I'm alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I am not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it - unless I'm thirsty."

Lily Bollinger


There is little doubt that of all the drinks available, Champagne has become the most romantic and provides the most exhilaration for our minds and senses. The history of Champagne dates back to the 17th century when in the cold, northeastern region of France, bubbles accidentally appeared in bottles of fermenting wine. In fact, Champagne was the product of a wonderful science experiment, but when trapped carbon dioxide bubbles appeared in fermenting wine, the science experiment was put on hold – and the rest, as they say, is history!


Champagne has always evoked the sort of obsession that Lily Bollinger has become famous for. There are very few special events or occasions that may pass without an obligatory glass of Champagne. In fact, to put matters into true perspective you need look no further than Winston Churchill's remarks during WWI, "remember gentlemen, it's not just France we are fighting for, it's Champagne!"


English scientist and physician Christopher merrett created his own Champagne production method in 1662, but it wasn't until the 17th century when Dom Perignon, a cellar master at the abbey Saint-Pierre d'Hautvillers spent many years tending the vineyards and eventually perfected the art of Champagne production during his years at the abbey.


Dom Perignon combined forces with another cellarmaster, Frère Jean Oudart from the abbeys of Saint-Pierre aux monts de Châlons, just two miles down the road, together creating the naturally sparking wine in its purest and most perfect form. Together, they managed to understand the typical fermentation, mix the grape varieties, invent the cork and add sugar which dissolved the carbonic gas in the wine.


The beauty of their creation was aptly described by Dom Perignon when at the moment he discovered Champagne, he said: "Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!"


The First World War and Prohibition were disastrous times for Champagne. Vineyards became battlefields, cellars were emptied, export markets evaporated and economic depression left few buyers for luxury goods. A major market for Champagne had been Imperial russia, and of course, that market disappeared following the revolution in 1917.


Again, in World War II, the vineyards once again became battlefields and France was occupied by the Nazis. It is only since the end of World War II that Champagne has so spectacularly rebuilt itself. In 1941, the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne was legally established, and has since contributed not only to administering production regulations in Champagne, but to promoting the wines throughout the world. The CIVC also has a team of lawyers protecting the name of Champagne!


Today, walk into any liquor store, and the supply of champagne is abundant. From cheap to expensive, from sweet to dry, from vintage to non-vintage – you can enjoy a glass or two to celebrate your next special occasion.

Last modified on Tuesday, 11 October 2011 13:27
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