The Worlds Happiest Accident: Champagne!
Champagne was not invented, nor did it just happen overnight. What we know today as champagne was actually 400 years in the making!
It all started in the 1500s in France... Due to a "mini ice age" the fermentation process that normally completes by winter, started to pause due to early onset of cold weather. As spring came around the fermentation resumed and that resulted in bubbly, frothy wines that consumers were rather disgusted by!
In the 1600s, cellar masters like Dom Perignon were tasked with trying to get rid of the bubbles as they were distasteful! Fermentation was not well understood and cellar masters didn't understand how yeast consumed sugars but could go dormant in cold weather.
By the 1700s France finally had the glass and cork technology available to trap those bubbles and due to changing times, they (the bubbles) did eventually become popular, especially among the royalty in Versailles. One problem: the glass at the time was hand-blown. which led to uneven widths, weakness and (you guessed it) explosions! Sometimes as much as 90% of a cellar's inventory was lost due to breakage of the class.
Thank goodness for the 1800s! The 1800s saw a ton of innovation.
- Molded glass prevented tremendous loss of inventory driving down prices and driving up availability.
- Louis Pastor taught us all about fermentation and yeast, leading to cellar masters (equivalent to what we call "wine maker" in the US) learning to control the fermentation process by adding sugar and yeast after the initial fermentation and arriving at a secondary fermentation in the bottle that we use today.
- The Widow Clicquot (Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin Clicquot, that lady on the champagne bottle in the image above) grande dame of Veuve Clicquot Champagne House invented the riddling table. This simple device (imagine a dining room table propped up at 45 degree angle with holes the size of wine bottles drilled into it) allowed her to remove the solid yeast particles from the wine bottles efficiently.
And then we arrive at the 1900s. A very happy place to be indeed. Champagne as we know it today!