Considering it’s the drink most of us toast with during our most special events, it’s hard to think that the birth of champagne was greeted with such frustration and difficulties. Widely connected to the birth of champagne is monk, Dom Perignon, believing to have invented champagne in 1693. Though it is true that Perignon took strides in perfecting wines, through careful bottling and gathering of the highest quality grapes, champagne is not noted as being a part of the market until notably later.
Since it’s presence on the market, circumstances of chance and scientific developments are what has crafted champagne into what we know it to be today. In it’s earlier days, champagne was crafted to have exceptional amounts of sugar and molasses, creating a limited window in which the beverage could be marketed and drunk safely. Safely because the carbon dioxide found in it’s bubbles created an especially narrow time period in which the pressure within the bottle would become too much and cause the bottles to burst entirely, or, at best, push the bottle’s cork out. These burst were seen as a significant safety hazard to the workers creating the product and the product’s consumers. The same sugar and molasses that was creating all these issues, was also the solution. Because of the limited time window, champagne was not able to be properly aged and improved, so the added amounts of sweetness disguised the product’s youth and imperfections. It was not until makers began to understand the science of the sugars and pressure, was it possible to create a more ‘dry’ version of champagne.
Throughout this process of perfecting the process, champagne was not considered an essential to the European middle class, and so it was dealt a higher tax rate. This added cost created the image and tradition of champagne being a luxury beverage, to be drank primarily for special occasions. This image has been maintained well into the 21st century.
Additionally, since it’s beginning, different variation of champagnes and sparkling wines have entered the market (in order from driest to sweetest):
- Extra Brut – Bone Dry, sugar less than 0.6% per liter.
- Brut – Sugar 0.5 – 1.5%.
- Extra Dry – Off-Dry, 1.0 – 2%
- Sec – Literally translated means dry, but has 2 -3.5% sugar
- Demi-Sec – Meaning off-dry, 3.5-5%
- Doux – Minimum 5.5% sugar, and has been known to have 8%