Bubbly – wine for all the senses
December 21, 2017 -- Champagne, like all the sparkling wines, is an experience of the senses — sight, smell, taste, touch, and in this case sound as well.
Champagne’s fizz as it whooshes into the glass highlights its clarity; bubbles release an aerosol of volatile aromas which tease the nose while bursting bubbles in the mouth release flavours at the first sip.
Of the sparkling wines, only French Champagne, Catalonian Cava and a small proportion of German Sect use secondary fermentation in the sealed bottle to produce fizz, so-called “Méthode Champenoise.”
The first mentions of sparkling wine came in early 16th century France and 17th century Britain. In 1531, records kept by the Benedictine monks of the abbey of Saint Hilaire, Limoux, just 100 kilometres north of today’s Catalan border, described a sparkling wine known locally as “blanquette.”
Legend has it that in 1668 Dom Pierre Pérignon travelled to the Saint-Hilaire abbey -- on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain -- and discovered the process of sparkling wines there. He went on to the Abbaye Saint-Pierre d’Hautvillers, in today’s Champagne country, where he worked to prevent secondary fermentation which would burst wine bottles.
Six years earlier, in 1662, English scientist and physician Dr Christopher Merret outlined the second fermentation process to the Royal Society in London. British wine-merchants were soon importing still wine from France, adding sugar to the sealed bottles and turning it into sparkling wine, at least a decade before the French.
In 1729 the nephew of Dom Thierry Ruinart, a noted scholar and contemporary of Dom Pérignon, founded France’s first champagne house, Maison Ruinart, which operates to this day.