It’s not Champagne, but we did invent it!
Ancient Greek and Roman writers attributed the bubbling in sparkling wine to phases of the moon as well as both good and evil spirits, thankfully nowadays we know all too well the history and method of this wonderful drink.
It may surprise you to know that despite popular belief, it was an Englishman by the name of Christopher Merrett who first recorded the recipe for transforming still wines into sparkling wine.
It was in 1662 when Christopher Merrett presented a paper which stated that;
“Sugar and molasses were being added to wines to make them sparkling”
and more importantly this was some 20 years before the French Benedictine monk, Dom Pierre Pérignon ever laid claim to the process.
French monk, Dom Pierre Pérignon did not transfer to the Abbey of Hautvillers until 1668 (6 years after Merrett had produced his writings) and it was some years after this time that wine was being made, let alone sparkling wine! Surprisingly, even when sparkling wine was being produced at Hautvillers Dom Pierre Perignon was originally charged by the cellarmasters at the abbey to rid the wine of the bubbles as the exploding bottles caused extensive losses to the wine stock.
At the time of documentation of the process it was only the English who had access to bottles strong enough to contain the pressure. The English also reverted to the Roman idea of using cork in the bottles over the French’s use of wood wrapped in cloth.
Sparkling wine is a result of a second fermentation process which is a chemical reaction that occurs when the bottled alcohol, with the addition of sugar and molasses (historically this was some residual sugar and dormant yeast) undergoes an increase in temperature and produces carbon dioxide (bubbles!)
At Strawberry Hill Vineyard, we are truly proud of being the nearest Vineyard to Christopher Merrett’s birthplace, Winchcombe, Gloucestershire.
Every country has its own name for sparkling, In Germany it is known as ‘Sekt’, ‘Cava’ in Spain, ‘Champagne’ for sparkling wine from the Champagne region and ‘Mousseux’ or ‘Crémant’ are used to refer to sparkling wine not made in the Champagne region of France.
The hunt continues for a formal name to English sparkling wine, maybe Merrett?
Anyway, enough of the history lesson, let’s all toast a glass of Strawberry Hill Blanc De Noir bubbly to Christopher Merrett
Ollie Chance – Feb 2012
b. Winchcombe, Gloucester. (16/2/1614 – 19/8/1695)