Champagne’s Bubbles Were A Happy Accident

Some of the world’s greatest innovations were discovered by accident. Champagne’s bubbles were one of them, that is, until the Royal Court at Versailles demanded more.

Effervescence. It makes Coca-Cola tap dance on your tongue and champagne look regal in a flute. But at least in champagne’s case, the bubbles were a total accident brought about in the late 1400s when temperatures across Europe dropped so low that both the Thames River and canals of Venice froze. From Smithsonian magazine’s Food & Think:

The monks of the Abbey of Hautvillers in Champagne, where high-altitude made it possible to grow top quality grapes, were already hard at work creating reds and whites. The cold temporarily halted fermentation, the process by which wine is made. When spring arrived with warmer temperatures, the budding spirits began to ferment again. This produced an excess of carbon dioxide inside wine bottles, giving the liquid inside a fizzy quality.

In 1668, the Catholic Church called upon a monk by the name of Dom Pierre Pérignon to finally control the situation. The rebellious wine was so fizzy that bottles kept exploding in the cellar, and Dom Pérignon was tasked with staving off a second round of fermentation.

In time, however, tastes changed, starting with the Royal Court at Versailles. By the end of the 17th century, Dom Pérignon was asked to reverse everything he was doing and focus on making champagne even bubblier.

How bubbly? A glass of champagne pops hundreds of bubbles a second, and with an important function: They release the aroma of the grapes before we even take a sip. And, sure, they do just look incredible in a champagne flute. Even still, it’s fascinating to know that if not for the fads and whims of the Royal Court, we’d be celebrating New Year’s with what’s ostensibly flat Coke.

You can read more interesting tidbits about champagne at Food & Think, and if you’re really interested, you can even buy the go-to book on the topic.

Read more here.

[Images: Champagne via Shutterstock, Réception du Grand Condé à Versailles via Wikipedia]

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