Champagne is one of the earliest exquisite beverages in the world. Since the 17th century, tears have been quelled and victories celebrated with bottles of champagne. Its purity and heavenly taste has been enjoyed by everyone over the years, ranging from peasants to world renowned leaders. In fact, when interviewed, Winston Churchill had this to say "A good Cigar and Champagne is a piece of heaven."
Nowadays, there are many champagne labels available in the market. People can purchase a bottle or two to lighten up and add some pomp to a party or significant event. However, one cannot fully appreciate the significance of champagne unless he or she learns of its history.
The origin of the name Champagne is a town in a France that goes by the same name, La Champagne. It is in that region that the Romans first planted vineyards and champagne was brewed. The beverage grew in popularity within the region, since it was used to grace coronation banquets for the monarch rulers. During that time, champagne was not the sparkling wine that we know now. Instead it was a pale pinkish still wine that was made from Pinot noir.
In 92 A.D. the Emperor Domitian ordered that most vineyards in France be uprooted so as to reduce competition with the wines of Italy. Champagne vineyards were not spared either. Therefore, for 2 centuries people cultivated in secret. It was only after Emperor Probus took power that the ban was lifted. After that, the wines of Champagne became prized above all other wines of Europe.
As Christianity spread and the influence of the church grew, most of the vineyards were placed under monastic orders. The monastic vineyards increased over time as more property of fallen crusaders was taken by the church. Most of the exquisite vineyards in La Champagne were nationalized in clerical hands and for centuries the wines were used for coronations, sacrament, consecration of treaties and for use at the royal table.
Champagne vs Burgundy
In mid seventeenth century the wines of Champagne were faced with stiff competition from wines of Burgundy, which were also made from the Pinot Noir grape. This forced the wines of Champagne to be made with extra care. This transformed champagne into an unusual and delicious beverage. In addition to this, champagne wines were made in different colors, such as honey, cherry pink and grey among several others.
However, it was until 1639 that sparkling wines were made. Their discovery was an accident. However, Frere Jean Oudart and Dom Pierre Perignon perfected them. This was followed by the introduction of the cork in Champagne bottles.
The Nineteenth Century
A century went by without any tangible progress in production processes. However, the need for better wine led to the introduction of new production methods, such as sauté-bouchon, reduction Francois and vintage dating. Champagne also suffered some downfalls especially from phylloxera attacks, world wars and unfavorable decrees. However, that did not deter its evolution from a pale pink still wine into the sparkling champagne labels we have now.