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Champagne: a Holy Toast

A Stained Glass Window of a Monk Examining Champagne

The important history of monks and Champagne is captured in a stained-glass window.

Named after the Champagne region of France, Champagne was first bottled by French monks.  But where do the bubbles come from?  The process of making the bubbles needed for this sparkling wine was invented by two Benedictine monks and cellarmasters: Frère Jean Oudart (1654–1742) from the abbey of Saint-Pierre aux Monts de Châlons, and Dom Pierre Pérignon (1639–1715) from the abbey of Saint-Pierre d’Hautvillers.  Since the Champagne region has a very cold and short growing season, Champagne grapes must be harvested very late in the year.  Because of this they have less time to ferment, and cold winter temperatures often halted the fermenting process.  To counter this, the monks introduced a second fermentation procedure that takes place in the bottle during the spring.  It’s this second fermentation that creates the much-loved bubbles that are Champagne’s calling card.  Thank you, Brothers Oudart and Pérignon!  For more information about the process and actual chemistry of aging wine, check out the Vintage Cellars Science of Aging Wine page.  Cheers!

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