Drinking the Stars
It has been said that on August 4, in 1693 the legendary winemaking monk, Dom Perignon, invented the ethereal potable known as champagne. The legend states that after accidentally discovering the sparkling wine, he called after his fellow friars, “Come quickly, I am drinking the stars!”
While these details make for a delightful story, most evidence suggests that it was the British who actually developed champagne. Reportedly, due to global cooling in the 17th century, the British were forced to import wines in order to enjoy them at home, and apparently the English had a preference for the pale, crisp wines that were produced in the Champagne region of France. After the French white wine made it to England, some experimental connoisseurs added a bit of sugar directly into the bottles to spark a second fermentation. Let it sit for a few months and, Voila! We have champagne. This new, bubbly French wine is referenced in British history a few years before Perignon’s supposed discovery, pretty much locking Dom out of the race.
Making matters more interesting, there is an account that dates bubbly’s discovery back to 1531 by monks in the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire. Still wines were produced in this region as far back as Roman occupation, but the famed Blanquette de Limoux, is supposedly the very first sparkling wine the world had seen. However, true champagne must have originated in Champagne, backing Britain’s claim to its discovery.
Upon careful consideration, it’s relatively safe to conclude that it was not, in fact, Dom Perignon who discovered the beverage in question. The fabrication of his contribution to the wine world likely stemmed from a successor’s exaggerated biography, which credited the well-known monk with many embellished achievements. However, Dom does deserve a bit of recognition as he certainly did have a healthy impact upon wine making. He was apparently a very insightful cellar master who developed a progressive technique for grape pressing and blending, as well as a way to keep a cork in a pressure-filled bottle of champagne.
Whether champagne originated in Great Britain, or Dom Perignon’s cellar, most of us simply take comfort in the fact that it exists. Our exciting vacations in France offer a taste of some of the best wines in the world, sparkling and still. Join us as we cycle through stunning wine regions and sample the stars on our LoireValley, Bicycling Bordeaux and the River Dordogne, or Burgundy: The Wine Route vacations. Salut!