History Of Champagne
Wines from the Champagne region were already known before medieval times. Churches owned vineyards, and monks produced wine for use in the sacrament of Eucharist. French kings were traditionally anointed in Reims and Champagne wine flowed as part of coronation festivities. Kings appreciated the still, light, and crisp wine, and offered it as an homage to other monarchs in Europe.
In the 17th century, still wines of Champagne were the chosen wines for celebration in European countries. The English were the biggest consumers of Champagne wines, and drank a lot of sparkling wines. The first commercial sparkling wine was produced in the Limoux area of Languedoc about 1535. They did not invent it per se, although the region may arguably be where sparkling wine originated since records show that Livy traded in non-sparkling white wines from Limoux as far back as the Roman occupation of the region in around the time of Christ. There is also some evidence that England may have had an early start at producing a bubbly alcoholic beverage.
In the late Middle Ages and Early Modern period, they added sugar and molasses to imported wine and bottled it. The English claim is given some substance as they had developed sufficiently strong bottles to withstand the very high pressures created by fermentation, although historians say the stronger bottles were purely accidental.
In the reign of King James I (1603-1625), Admiral Sir Robert Mansell managed to persuade the king to ban glassworks from burning timber, to safeguard the supplies needed to build the fleet. This meant the glassmakers had to burn coal instead. The resulting bottles were black, but thicker, heavier and better able to withstand pressure from
There is some evidence that the Cossacks on the River Don in the Crimea developed a sparkling wine some 50 years before the monk Dom Perignon first produced sparkling wine in
France. Contrary to legend and popular belief, the French monk Dom Perignon did not invent champagne, although it is almost certainly true that he developed many advances in the production of this beverage, including the method in which the cork is held in place with a wire collar due to pressure building up during the fermentation process.
Some have suggested that champagne was created quite by accident, while others believe that the first champagne was made with rhubarb but was changed due to the high cost. Somewhere toward the end of the 17th century, the sparkling method was introduced to the Champagne region, some suggest by Dom Perignon (person) himself who was at the monastery of Saint-Hilaire in Languedoc-Roussillon prior to going to the Champagne region where he popularized the drink. "The leading manufacturers devoted considerable energy to creating a history and identity for their wine, associating it and themselves with nobility and royalty. Through advertising and packaging they persuaded the world to turn to champagne for festivities and rites de passage and to enjoy it as a luxury and form of conspicuous consumption. Their efforts coincided with an emerging middle class that was looking for ways to spend its money on symbols of upward mobility."
In 1866, the famous entertainer and star of his day, George Leybourne began a career of making celebrity endorsements for Champagne. The Champagne maker Moët commissioned him to write and perform songs extolling the virtues of Champagne, especially as a reflection of taste, affluence, and the good life. He also agreed to drink nothing but Champagne in public. Leybourne was seen as highly sophisticated and his image and efforts did much to establish Champagne as an important element in enhancing social status. It was a marketing triumph the results of which endure to this day.
In the 1800s Champagne was noticeably sweeter than modern Champagne is today with the Russians preferring Champagne as sweet as 300 grams per litre. The trend towards drier Champagne began when Perrier-Jouët decided not to sweeten his 1846 vintage prior to exporting it to London. The designation Brut Champagne, the modern Champagne, was created for the British in 1876.