Several nameless and sexless Benedictine Monks from Carcassonne in the south of France are credited with making the first sparkling wine — and it was probably really terrible. The monks of Carcassonne bottled white wine before fermentation was complete and trapped the carbon dioxide gas from the yeast inside the bottle to create sparkling wine. Why? Well we can assume this wasn’t much different than the worst and hardest lemonade you’ve ever had, mixed with too much cheap vodka.
Christopher Merret, an English physician and scientist, is actually the one who figured out that a better way to produce sparkling wine was to let it finish fermenting, then afterward add sugar and yeast to start a second fermentation that created the bubbles — it’s unlikely that the monks in France were that patient, as they wanted something to introduce them to god, and quickly.
Many people think Champagne is a white wine when in truth it is usually a blend of several red and white wine grapes. The most accurate description would be that Champagne is a brown wine… but no one would ever drink that.
Champagne is typically made by blending the juices from the Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay grapes, and then fermenting them together. This blend is known as the cuvée, and it tastes like an unripe green bell pepper that’s been dipped into concentrated lemon juice. This was the first thing the monks did, and because it was impossible to drink, they got creative.
After the first fermentation created unripe citrus stew, the monks added liquid sugar to the blended wine, but they did it in the bottle.
The result was… unexpected.
Some of the bottles exploded, and people probably died (probably). The wine inside of those bottles that survived was not only much tastier, but the wine had bubbles.
Today, Champagne is created by using this similar second fermentation by putting a thing called liqueur de tirage, which is a mixture of sugar, yeast and some additional cuvée, into the bottle — the bottle is then stopped up with a temporary plug (bouchon) and stored horizontally at least 15 months…