Drinking the Stars

Champagne, Wine Tours, Dom PerignonIt 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.

Champagne, Wine Tours, Dom Perignon, The Wine Route

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!

The Art of Flamenco

The Running of the Bulls may have wrapped up on July 14th, but there remains another iconic pastime that can be experienced at any time of year in Spain: Flamenco.

While the thought of Southern Spainmay conjure images of white villages, gentle hills, and refreshing sangria, at the heart of Andalusían culture, complementing its rustic landscape, is the art of Flamenco.  A culmination of Roman, Moorish, Christian, and Jewish influence, the folk dance has served as one the most prominent features of Spanish culture since the 18th century.  Initially evolving out of Gypsy culture, its origins are enveloped in mystery.  Yet, Flamenco has survived centuries to develop into a cultural emblem known throughout the world.

More than simply a genre of music or dance, Flamenco combines cante (singing), toque (guitar), and danza (dance) to create a captivating, all encompassing sensory experience.  The cultural tradition can be taken in at a Peña Flamenca, a traditional Flamenco club, a Tabloa, a modern establishment designed specifically for Flamenco performance, or even occasionally in an impromptu juerga (jam session).  Regardless of the venue, after experiencing Flamenco, most agree that the art is truly a “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity,”  as UNESCO declared it just last year.

Experience the eloquence and mystique of Flamenco for yourself and join us on one of our favorite warm winter getaways,Spain: Under the Andalusian Sky, where we enjoy a visit to a Peña Flamenca on Day 4.

Click here to view a video of our Spain Trip, featuring a Flamenco dance.