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Champagne: How An Accidental Discovery Led To Wonderful Bubbly

Champagne sales have suffered during the recession because

, as with most luxury goods, less people have been buying it as they make a conscious effort to cut back on luxuries to save money.

Despite mixed reports, with some sources claiming that sparkling wine sales actually increase in times of recession, supermarkets this Christmas are endeavouring to temp us back towards the bubbles in the form of half-price deals on Champagne, with each store trying to out-do the other.

Tesco has demanded from its suppliers that it be given access to 300,000 bottles of bubbly for 10 pounds each, Morrisons is selling big-name brands like Moet & Chandon, Bollinger and Black Label for less than half price.

So has bubbly lost its fizz? It's very doubtful. This wonderful wine has a long and interesting history and, like many great historical inventions such as penicillin and fireworks, was invented partly by accident.

The wine first made in the Champagne region was from vineyards planted by the Romans, which were cultivated around the 5th century. Hugh Capet became King Of France in 987, and was crowned in the region, which began the tradition for several subsequent monarchs to pass through the region. Local wine always had pride of place at coronation banquets, but at this early time it was a pinkish wine made from the grape Pinot noir; a far cry from what we know Champagne as today.

The colder temperatures of the region posed many challenges for the Champenois who wished to compete with the excellent wine made in neighbouring Burgundy. Grapes struggled to ripen fully, and were highly acidic whilst being low in sugar. But the particular factor in the development of the bubbly wine we know and love today was the effect the temperature has on fermentation.

So cold was it at times in the cellars in the region that fermentation was halted, to begin again in the spring. The by-product of fermentation is carbon dioxide gas, which caused intense pressure within the bottles, often causing them to explode.

Some bottles survived, but the people of the region were horrified when they found bubbles inside; finding it unusual and being certain that it was a fault. Even by the 17th century, the wine makers were trying to eradicate bubbles from the bottles, including Dom Perignon the Benedictine monk.

It was the British that began to favour bubbly wine, and started to develop a taste for it which continues to this day. Then, after the death of Louis XIV in 1715, the court of Philippe II Duke of Orleans made the sparkling wine a favourite with French nobility.

It wasn't until the 19th century however that obstacles regarding how to properly control fermentation in order to prevent wine bottles exploding from gas production were overcome. The modern industry manifested, and production became profitable. Many of the famous Champagne houses were formed at this time; Krug in 1843, Pommery in 1858 and Bollinger in 1829.

The special bubbly fizz offered by this wine is now an ingrained part of celebrations in Britain; it signifies excitement and happy occasions, and will forever be that special treat that's treasured by all.

by: Dominic DonaldsonAbout the Author:Dom Donaldson is a wine expert.Find out more about Champagne at http://www.virginwines.com/wine-zone/champagne

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Champagne: How An Accidental Discovery Led To Wonderful Bubbly