Weekly Wine Quiz: The Secret History Of Champagne?

Vinted on January 13, 2012 binned in wine appreciation, wine quiz

There’s been a good deal of positive reaction to my new contributions to the Wine Quiz section of The Juice newsletter (thanks for that, by the way!), and so I thought it would be fun to run each week’s Juice quiz here on 1WineDude.com, so that you can complain directly to me that the answers are incorrect for one obscure reason or another we can extend the conversation around each of the quizzes.

The quizzes will appear a week behind those that run in The Juice – otherwise the folks at LocalWineEvents.com would be (quite justifiably!) upset with me.

So… here’s last week’s The Juice Quiz, with the answer hidden (click the “+” button below to reveal; those reading this through RSS are just gonna have to exercise enough restraint not to scroll down far enough to spoil the fun) [Editor’s note: see comments, we’re turning off this feature in favor of adding a bit more suspense to future quizzes – the answer will appear later in the comments section from here on out!] to help slake your thirst for wine knowledge (the theme for the first several quizzes is my personal fave bubbly action – Champagne).


The Secret History Of Champagne?

Many of you were ringing in the new year with Champagne, but do you know who might have invented sparkling wine, in terms of deliberately trying to make still wines get fizzy? It almost certainly wasn’t Champagne icon Dom Perignon, who likely tried to prevent his still wines from fermenting for a second time in their bottles, thus causing the bubbly action (and exploding a not-insignificant number of those bottles!). According to award-winning wine writer Tom Stevenson, evidence suggests which country may have been the inventors of sparkling wine?

  • A. France
  • B. Spain
  • C. England
  • D. Italy
  • E. Portugal…

And the answer is…

C. England

Yeah, really.

In The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia, Tom Stevenson makes a compelling argument for England being the home of sparkling wine invention (in terms of deliberately trying to induce bubbles in still French wines via secondary fermentation in bottle). While the French were still trying to keep their Champagne from developing bubbles in the early 1700s, English dramatists were mentioning sparkling Champagne in plays dated from the 1600s; and, according to Stevenson, the English had not only the technology to induce a secondary fermentation, they also had the means for keeping those bubbles safely contained – namely, corks (something the French wouldn’t use widely until about 130 years later).






  • Denise

    Actually a very interesting tidbit of information. And now today, the English are re-vamping their roots and coming back with some rather nice sparkling wines.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Denise – and you are 100% right, England is making world-class sparklers in a few fabulous cases. Reminds me of when the Brits used to make fun of the Aussie wine industry as being a joke. Then the Aussies made some killer juice and the joke was no longer funny. Then it was England's turn to be labeled the consumer but a joke of a producer – no longer!

  • Thomas Pellechia

    I'd rather you not give the answer until a few people try to guess–maybe the following day or two.

    I did know it was England, but not having the adrenalin rush of getting to say so left me uninterested in the next quiz. of course, when I don't know the answer I'll curse you for it… ;)

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Thomas – great point, I'll delay the answers for future posts and put them in the comments at a later point. Cheers!

  • RichardPF

    There is credible evidence that monks in the Languedoc of France were actually the first to make sparkling wine, as far back as 1531. Though I agree Britain was intentionally making sparkling wine before Dom Perignon.

    • 1WineDude

      Richard – interesting, I've heard a variation on that one in which the Dom picked up his skills for making sparklers from others traveling from that region, but that version doesn't jive with the evidence that the Dom was almost certainly trying to *prevent* the wines from going bubbly (and then exploding! :).

      • RichardPF

        Yes, seems strange when Dom was trying to make still wine for so long.

    • Thomas Pellechia


      Do you know the source of that evidence?

      I've heard it before–the Limoux producers talk about it. But I have never seen a source for the evidence. Would love to uncover it.

      • RichardPF

        Let me do some checking in my books for a reference. Last fall, I did research for a series on the early history of Champagne and it came up.

    • Kennysws

      In the 1660s there was a market for British sparkling wine- they called it mousse, befor it was ever sold in France. In an effort to preserve imported still wine from France, they would bottle it and then maybe dose it with brandy to preserve it" and if yeast was present they created a crude form of champagne.

  • Dale Cruse

    I have to believe that no matter where sparkling wine was first created, beer brewers' reaction had to be, "So? We've been making bubbly booze for thousands of years."

    • 1WineDude

      Dale – GREAT point! :) Ok, now I need a beer…

    • Thomas Pellechia

      Yeah, Dale, but brewers didn't realize how much money carbonation could net them on New Year's Eve.

    • RichardPF

      I wonder when beer brewers decided to intentionally make it bubbly. I assume that initially, it was an accidental by product.

      • Thomas Pellechia


        Since carbonation is one result of fermentation, beer may have been bubbly from the start, based on how quickly it was consumed.

  • 1WineDude

    Here's another interesting Champers tidbit sent to me by a reader via email:

    "The French had cork, what they did not have is strong glass. The British fired their furnaces with coal rather than Peat, which produced stronger glass bottles that could whistand the pressure of secondary fermentation. In early Champagne literature there are many references to "Verre Anglais" (English Glass) to suggest that connection.

    There is also evidence to suggest that the first sparklers were produced in British inns by mistake… wine was shipped in barrels before it finished fermentation (because of cold temps in Champagne) when it was bottled in England, the watmer tempertures in the inn (wood fire, Pirates and wenches…) caused the wine to start fermenting again, in the bottle!"

    Fascinating shizz!

    • Thomas Pellechia


      The story about the British glass is pretty widely known. It's in one of my books.

      The one about the wine mistakenly shipped in barrels before fermentation ended sounds suspicious to me.

      it seems like the one about Madeira's method having been discovered as the result of wine aging in barrels on hot ships to the East. There's evidence that glass roofing to absorb sun was in place in the estufa years before they started to ship wine to the East.

      In Champagne, the reason the Dom sought a way to stop the bubbling in his wines was because in spring some wines in barrels would start to re-ferment.

      • 1WineDude

        Sure, Thomas, rub it in that I haven’t read your books yet (I plead “toddler” :-)…

        • Thomas Pellechia


          Rub it in?

          Gotta get press somehow…

          I'll arrange a review copy for you of my next book (and fourth, ole man) when it's released.

          • 1WineDude

            Looking forward to it, Thomas!

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