Did The French Really Invent Champagne?

is champagne really french

A new documentary called “Sparkling: The Story of Champagne” explores the questionable origin of the sparkling wine, synonymous with celebration and the French producing region. And in a view that’s sure to fuel controversy, the film points toward some evidence that suggests that the bubbling beverage was developed in Britain before becoming popular in France.

A report in the Telegraph explains that the new claim on the origins of the drink comes from historic evidence that centres on the first literary mention of Champagne, which was in a 1676 play by George Etherege, The Man of Mode, or, Sir Fopling Flutter,.

In the English Restoration comedy, the characters engage in a drinking song with lyrics that end off in “Then sparkling Champaigne/ Puts an end to their reign.”

Speaking on this apparent revelation the director of the documentary, Frank Mannion, said the play included the first mention of sparkling champagne anywhere in the world:

“It offers documentary proof to the British claim that the Brits were drinking sparkling champagne years before Dom Perignon, the “Father of champagne”.

“In fact, it was the English aristocracy that helped to make the sparkling drink fashionable and that’s one of the reasons why the English can make a claim to having ‘discovered’ champagne.”

Dom Perignon, a French Benedictine monk, is credited with champagne production in 1697, although his story is shrouded in myth. 

The claim that he called to his fellow monks: “Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!” was invented for a late-19th century marketing campaign.

Lending gravity to the British claim, it has also evidenced that a West Country scientist called Christopher Merrett invented the second fermentation technique required to produce champagne, and the bottles to contain it, documenting his discoveries in 1662.

Mannion’s documentary features a visit to the Royal Society to examine Merrett’s paper, in which he described making wine effervescent.

It also includes interviews with Tony Laithwaite, the Queen’s winemaker, and the chairmen of Taittinger and Bollinger, along with the chef de cave of Dom Perignon.

Mannion adds:

“In the film, we canvass several different opinions as to the origin of champagne and leave it up to the audience to decide who invented it.

“In this post-Brexit age, it is a colourful prism through which we can have a good-humoured look at Anglo-French relations.”

For more information on the documentary, head over to IMDB.