Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph: Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, head of Taittinger Champagne and an unashamed Anglophile declared in a recent interview with Le
Figaro that sparkling wines were invented by the English: “They [the English] created champagne because of a mistake. Benedictine monks were supplying them with still wines from Champagne, red and white wines. The English left these inexpensive
wines on the London docks and they got cold, so they started undergoing a second fermentation (causing them to become carbonated). Like all mistakes it led to a great invention.”
Both newspapers reported it
is generally acknowledged that a monk named Dom Pierre Pérignon invented the first sparkling wine in the 17th century. Christopher Merret, an English physician, wrote a paper in 1662 where he described the process of adding sugar to the wine
to carbonate it, méthode champenoise, although he didn’t claim to have invented the drink.
Although Mr Taittinger’s comments will not settle the disputes on the origins of champagne,
it must be acknowledged that the English played an important role in popularising the drink by promoting it as an essential accompaniment to celebrations such as weddings worldwide.
Unsurprisingly a couple
of days after the article was published two lettersappeared in the Daily Telegraph from readers postulating their own theories on the origins of sparkling wines. Kim Scudamore dismissed the idea of the bottles on the quayside as pure serendipity.
In the mid-17th century very little French wine would have been imported due to laws passed by Oliver Cromwell and Charles II and it would have been in casks which would not have allowed the fizz to have held. Men such as Sir John Scudamore
(no doubt a forebear of the writer) who applied their knowledge of apple varieties and fermentation to produce ciders that could be bottled in the new toughened glass of that time, Kim Scudamore claims, should be regarded as the founders of champagne.
Brian Merritt, in another letter, informs us that it was the Benedictine monks of St Hilaire, near Limoux, France, who added the fizz to wine in 1531. Apparently, this is the oldest sparkling wine in the world and is sold
in UK supermarkets as Cremant de Limoux or Blanquette de Limoux.