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Aha Moment Maker: Battle of the Bubbly

by OIC Staff on December 28, 2013

Waiter with drinks, illustrating the accidental discovery of champagne, an opportunity for readers to have their own aha moment

CHAMPAGNE, 1668—A Benedictine monk named Dom Pierre Pérignon arrived at the Abbey of Hautvillers near Épernay. His tenure as the cellar master for the abbey’s prized wines began with a challenging assignment.

It seems that unexpected cold snaps in the fall when the wine was bottled had temporarily halted the fermentation of the wine. When temperatures warmed in the spring, the vintage began to ferment for a second time, producing excess carbon dioxide and giving the liquid inside a fizzy quality.

Not only was fizzy wine considered poor winemaking, but bottles in the cellar kept exploding. Dom Pierre Pérignon’s assignment was to correct the situation.

Over time, however, affinity for the fizzy wine grew. By 1697, Dom Pérignon had reversed course and brought the bubbles back. He learned from the weather-induced mistake and employed a second fermentation to develop the “French Method,”  which is still used today to make champagne. As a result, Dom Pérignon became known as the father of champagne.

His paternal status was challenged, however, by a British winemaker’s discovery in the 1990s of a paper presented by Gloucester doctor Christopher Merret in 1662 (six years before Dom Pérignon arrived at the Abbey). It detailed experiments to create a bubbly wine, and included a recipe that resembles modern-day champagne.

The result is an ongoing debate across the English channel, and it’s not likely to fizzle out anytime soon.

What’s the aha moment you see?


 Image © iStockphoto



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