Champagne evokes a popular image of celebrations, happiness, and prosperity, but the historical facts burst its bubble just a little. The sparkling wine, which comes only from the Champagne region of France, hasn't always been such fizzy fun. In fact, when bubbles first appeared in the wine, they were considered a bad thing -- even the famed Benedictine monk Dom Pierre Pérignon worked hard to prevent them in his signature product. The bubbles originally came about due to the cool climate of the Champagne region. The fermentation process begins after the late-ripening grapes are pressed, but comes to a halt in the winter months, when the yeast is inactive. However, after the wine is bottled in early spring, the yeast inside eventually warms up, and a second fermentation process begins. By the time the bottle is uncorked, all that fermentation -- a carbon dioxide reaction -- comes to the surface in the form of bubbles. There are approximately one million of them in a single glass of champagne. Although this accidental fizziness was originally unwanted, the bubbly concoction quickly caught on, making champagne in its fizzy form an important celebratory libation.
A toast to champagne:
- Although legend has it that Dom Pérignon exclaimed, "Come quickly, I am drinking the stars!” after tasting his fizzy creation, it is more likely that he was disappointed to have found unwanted bubbles in his wine.
- Champagne found early popularity in England, where people were captivated by the bubbles. The English contribution to champagne came in the form of stronger bottles -- the more delicate French bottles had a unfortunate habit of exploding under the pressure from all that carbonation.
- Champagne became the favored drink of the French court under Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, who served as regent after the death of Louis XIV in 1715.