Birth of Bubbly

"Come quickly! I am drinking the stars!" exclaimed Dom Perignon on August 4th 1693. The Benedictine monk is alleged to have discovered sparkling wine on this date. Upon his arrival at the Abbaye de Hautvillers, Dom Perignon became the winery's cellar master. As many of the monks' wines were of poor quality and went through the carbon dioxide producing refermentation process, he was charged with ridding the wines of those pesky bubbles. Such a task turned out impossible. The monk admitted defeat and tasted one of his bumbled bottles. To his astonishment, the wine was creamy, dry, and delicious. As the legend goes, he hastily beckoned his fellow friars to join him to savor his stellar discovery.

Although there is no evidence to verify this event, and documents show that "sparkling wine" was invented in Limoux at the Abbaye de Saint Hilaire 160 years prior to Perignon's alleged epiphany, there is no disputing that Dom Perignon and his colleagues in the cellar at Hautvillers brought the style into the modern age. They experiemented with various varietals and perfected a way of making white wine out of red grapes. In celebration, Moët & Chandon's premier cuvee famously carries his moniker. Additionally, the fermentation technique, known as the méthode champenoise was not actually innovated in Champagne or France at all. The process was not applied there until 200 years after British scientist Christopher Merret had already published a study describing the method. In the Abbaye cellar, the bubbling wines were a surprise that lead to exploding bottles and destroyed reserves. It was Perignon's realization that the wines were a treat, rather than a curse that solidified Champagne's place in the sparkling wine revolution. Little did he know the region and the wine would become synonymous.

Luckily, stronger glass and a wider use of the process of adding sugar and yeast to already fermented wine lead to an increase in quality. The house of Perrier-Jouët was the first to export its bubbly with less residual sugar. Another gift from the British Isles, the product was initially sent there with the "Brut" label to comply with the royal taste buds. Now, most bubbly is dry and sparkling wine is made in nearly every wine producing region. Sparkling wines are extremely versatile at the dinner table and with the right chill, they are the ultimate refreshment, especially in these sultry summer months.
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