History of Champagne

"I only drink Champagne on two occasions. When I am in love, and when I am not" - Coco Chanel

The Romans were the first known inhabitants to plant vineyards in the area of northeast France. The term Champagne comes from the Latin campania; referring to the similarities of the Italian countryside of Campania. The Romans were also known for creating cork stoppers for preservation purposes, though they went out of vogue after the fall of the Roman Empire, and not used again until the 17th century.

Rumor has it that Champagne was accidentally created. The region of Champagne is the most northerly of the winemaking regions in France. The cold, winter weather would interrupt the fermentation process so when spring came the yeast would start fermenting again, creating a secondary fermentation...and bubbles. In the early days of Champagne production, the winemakers were seriously worried about the danger of the bottles. The bottles had not been designed to take the pressure from the fermentation process... when one bottle burst... 90% of the others would burst. It wasn't until the 17th century when a wine loving, Benedictine monk named Dom Pierre Perignon from the Abbey of Hautvillers perfected the champagne making techniques. Though Perignon was not initially a fan of the bubbles in Champagne, mostly because the bottles were always blowing up, he eventually embraced the results. He notably stated "come quickly, I am tasting the stars" at the moment he discovered the modern day Champagne. We believe he was referring to the taste, not the feeling he had when the cork hit his head. The British refined the bottles and reintroduced the cork stoppers around the same time. Still, to this day, you are more likely to be killed by a flying Champagne cork than a poisonous spider.

In 1919, France wanted to protect the name of their bubbly liquid, allowing for the name "Champagne" to be applied only to the wine made from that particular region. At the Treaty of Versailles, The French included an article that limited the use of the word. As you may recall, the US never ratified the Treaty of Versailles, creating a bit of a loophole for US wine makers. By not signing the "Champagne clause", the word could legally be used on bubbly made in the US. In 2006, out of respect of our European wine making friends, the US signed a wine trade agreement to limit the terminology. Unless the US wine maker has a grandfathered label, you will not see the use of Champagne, Burgundy, Chablis, Port or Chianti on any US made wine.

I used Champagne in our Summer Wine recipe, along with honey and St. Germain. Cheers!

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