The History of Sparkling Wine

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.

The Process…

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

Cheers!

Ollie Chance – Feb 2012

The Godfather of sparkling wine?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christopher Merrett

b. Winchcombe, Gloucester. (16/2/1614 – 19/8/1695)

References

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Merret

http://www.moorlynch.com/History%20of%20English%20wine%20and%20sparkling%20wine.htm

http://winewriter.blogspot.com.au/2008/10/engish-invented-champagne.html
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2012019/French-Champagne-invented-British-doctor-Christopher-Merret.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dom_P%C3%A9rignon_%28person%29

One thought on “The History of Sparkling Wine

  1. Dear Oliver

    Some little time ago I e-mailed you regarding our intentions to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Christopher Merret, a local Winchcombe man (16th February 1614).

    The “Festival of Fizz” takes place on the 26/27 July next here in Winchcombe and I suggested that you might wish to get involved. From your response you are the closest vineyard to Winchcombe? Furthermore we have our press launch on 14th February next and wondered if you may wish to be involved with product/presence.

    We do hope that you would wish to carry the co-operation to include the festival and we already have guaranteed co-operation from two of our hostelries, namely the White Hart and Plaisterers Arms. We are confident of involving the Lion and Wesley House during the weekend. You may wish to consider a “Fizz Fest” labled sparkling wine for the occasion?

    It would be our intention to make this a sustainable event, and await your reply by return, with much interest.

    Kind regards

    Christopher Sweet
    Festival Co-ordinator

    Festival of Fizz, Winchcombe 26/7 July 2014

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