Once upon a time, a monk named Dom Pérignon was making wine and couldn't get rid of the bubbles. After tasting his accidental creation, he exclaimed, "Come quickly! I am drinking the stars!"
Or so the story goes. Wired Magazine points out that this fortuitous accident was supposed to have happened exactly 316 years ago today. On Aug 4, 1693, Dom Pérignon invented champagne.
Except he didn't. The story is most likely the result of some brilliant marketing campaigns throughout the years, including the "drinking the stars" line, which dates back to an advertisement in the 1800s.
In reality, Dom Pérignon was a Benedictine monk who entered the order at the age of 19. He resided at the Abbey of Hautvillers near the town of Épernay (within Champagne, France), where he served as cellarmaster. He was charged by his superiors to get rid of the bubbles in the wine, but was unable to do so. Instead he made great advances in perfecting the method of champagne creation.
Champagne undergoes two fermentations. After the first, traditional fermentation and bottling, yeast and a bit of rock sugar are added to the bottle. The bottle, now sealed with a cap, ages for a minimum of 1.5 years. Once the bottle has reached maturity, remuage occurs. During remuage, the bottles are slowly turned almost upside down so that the residual yeast ends up in the neck of the bottle. The bottle necks are then quick-frozen and the cap removed. The pressure in the bottle forces out the ice containing the residue and the bottle is quickly corked to maintain the carbon dioxide. Several houses will add a dosage (sugar syrup) at this point to maintain the level of liquid within the bottle.
The bottles are corked and caged, and often aged for a few months to many years before they are released to the market.
Back in Dom Pérignon's day, cellars would lose around 20% of their wine to exploding bottles, as the pressure from the bubbles would be just too much. It was Dom Pérignon's advancements that helped bring about the champagne we know today.
I love that champagne is such a wonderful beverage, inspiring myths about its creation and songs about its invention. So happy mythical birthday, champagne. You wear 300+ well.
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