The Great Champagne Forgery?
Champagne has long been the choice for many, but there is recent evidence that the method and the glass were in fact British inventions, published well before Dom Perignon famously created his Champagne. Here are a few facts to get a debate going at your place.
Christopher Merrett (or Merret) was born in Gloucestershire around 1614, and went on to become an inventor and experimenter with the ciders that the region was known for. He is known to have experimented with adding sugar and molasses to wine, as well as introducing a second fermentation to reduce the acidity of French wines.
He became a member of the Royal Society and in 1662 announced his methods and experiments, some 30 years or so before Dom Perignon's work in France. Merrett described his method as giving the wine a 'brisk and sparkling' taste. Merrett is also credited with strengthening bottles with metallic elements (as coal as a strengthener had been made illegal) such as iron or manganese or carbon. This would be added to the liquid glass mixture. Backing this up, there is some evidence that the French in their Champagne production referred to the use of 'English glass'.
Perhaps all the credit should not belong to Merrett. Two more cider-makers presented to the Royal Society the following year, one explaining that he added walnut size amount of sugar to the wine, and the other explaining that after adding sugar and sealing his cider, he kept it in cool water which gave it a bright yellow lustre and sparkle (or what they referred to as 'nittiness' or the presence of bubbles).
Even more evidence suggests that the unique 'riddling' method of holding the bottles upside down and angled for fermentation was actually a British invention also. A certain John Worlidge described the sugar and fermentation methods and also storing his bottles in this fashion.
Brother Pierre Perignon took office as the cellarer and procurator of the Abbey D'Hautvillers in 1668, so he may have read or been aware of some of this research or even the papers. If he did, he did not acknowledge it. Fizzy wine was known to be in fashion at the English court but this kind of drink seemed to be considered poor winemaking and in fact, as is widely known, Dom Perignon's job was to remove this kind of problem from French wine. However, his own second fermentation method (was it his own?!) became fashionable and was consumed at the court of Louis XIV of France.
We'll never know!
Good drinking to you,