Sunday, September 28, 2008

France's First Bubbly

One of my favorite blogs for keeping up with all matters luxurious is Luxist. Deidre Woollard is most prolific; I'm a fan because she seems to love champagne as much as I do. She wrote an interesting post on a new book y James Crowden that suggests champagne may have actually been a British invention. This theory is not new; but according to the new book Ciderland, British scientist Christopher Merrett in 1662 or so figured out adding sugar and molasses to still wine from Champagne would make it fizzy; he also started using stronger glass to keep the bottle from exploding.

Many people do believe that Dom Perignon, the nearly-blind monk who toiled making wine in the Abbey of Hautvillers invented sparkling wine in the Champagne region around 1700. He's reputed to have said: Come quickly brothers, I'm drinking stars" upon his discovery. Whether he uttered this romantic phrase or not, he didn't invent champagne. It was a natural result of bottling wine in the cold Champagne region before the wine had finished fermenting. In the spring when it warmed up, the wine started fermenting again and the bubbles were trapped inside the bottle. Dom Perignon was a brilliant winemaker and marketer; since it was nearly impossible to keep the bubbles out of wines, he decided to turn them into an asset rather than a flaw. In 1921, Moet et Chandon chose his name for their tete de cuvee.

Actually, sparkling wines were being made on purpose in the southern French region Languedoc since 1531, more than 100 years before Dom Perignon was even born. The Benedictine monks at the Abbey Saint-Hilaire near the town of Limoux made a wine they called Blanquette de Limoux using the local Mauzac grape. Today, the sparkling wines of Limoux - Blanquette and Cremant - are some of the best secret value sparkling wines in France. The Antech Cuvee Francoise Blanquette de Limoux is highly regarded and sells for under $13 at K & L. If you like your wines green, then check out the Bernard Delmas Blanquette de Limoux, a vegan and organic wine made from a blend of Mauzac and Chardonnay grapes.

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