Sparkling wine, commonly known as Champagne, was discovered by chance! It all started when Champagne wine growers attempted to compete with growers of Burgundy wines. However, they were unable to succeed due to their region’s cold winters which prompted the fermentation of the wine in the cellars to halt temporarily.
In spring, the warming climate awoke the yeast cells and fermentation began again, leading to the release of carbon dioxide gas in the bottle. The bottles were initially weak and exploded, but the ones who survived held sparkling wine!
Soon after, Hugh Capet, King of France, began serving sparkling wine at formal dinner parties at the Royal Palace. The Duke of Orléans also liked to present Champagne wine to the wealthy and successful post-1715.
One of the various narratives documenting the heritage of Champagne is that it was invented by the monk Dom Pérignon. This is questionable as several documents show that sparkling wine was already being produced by an Englishman at that time and that Dom Pérignon initially attempted to remove the bubbles to prevent them from splitting underneath the stresses of the secondary fermentation.
Dom Pérignon is said to have tasted wine that had accidentally re-fermented in 1697 and was ecstatic at the delightfully sparkling result. He began to experiment until he was finally able to ferment wine in a bottle without it exploding. The highly marketable outcome was sparkling champagne.
According to new research, it was an Englishman, not Dom Perignon, who managed to crack the complicated bottle fermentation process, paving the way for champagne producers to make sparkling wine. In 1662, a Gloucester doctor, Christopher Merret, presented a paper to the Royal Society, describing in detail the process for making bottle-fermented sparkling wine.
The eight-page report detailed experiments conducted by cider makers who added sugar to dry cider prior to bottling in order to produce sparkling cider through a second fermentation.
Dom Pérignon, on the other hand, began producing wines within the territory of Champagne in 1668. He appears to be the inventor of second fermentation and is unquestionably the founder of Champagne as we still know it today.
Dom Pérignon was the first-ever winemaker to produce white wine from blue grapes; he also invented the tightly controlled Méthode Traditionelle (known as the Méthode Champenoise prior to 1994). Aside from that, he is also credited as the inventor of several methodologies for producing sparkling wine, some of which are still in use to this day.