Champagne bottles created out of necessity

Champagne bottles created out of necessity

Contributed by Gus Clemens

If you enjoyed Champagne or sparkling wine last week while gleefully celebrating the demise of 2020, you may not have thought about the heavy bottle containing the bubbly. But there is a story there.

Wood emerged as a precious commodity in the 1500s. The population of England and Wales soared, escalating demand for wood. Wood was used to construct and heat buildings. It was used in glass making. It was vital to ship building.

As demand for wood surged, shortages of wood imperiled Europe, especially England. In 1615, King James I — sponsor of the King James Bible — issued a proclamation prohibiting widespread use of wood. His goal: conserve wood to keep his royal navy afloat.

Glassmakers at the time used charcoal made from oak trees to heat their furnaces. With the oak supply cut off, inventive English glassmakers turned to coal. England had plenty of coal. To their joy, glassmakers discovered higher temperatures achieved with coal allowed them to produce stronger glass. That included very sturdy bottles capable of containing high pressure — two or three times the pressure inside your automobile’s tires — created when wine fermented in the bottle and produced carbon dioxide.

Thus, the bottle for French Champagne was birthed in coal-fired furnaces of England.

In a related note, there is a raging dispute over whether the French or the English “invented” sparkling wine. Arguments can be made for either side. It tilts toward England, with France more robustly exploiting the discovery once there were sturdy English bottles in which to make the stuff.

To dash a myth, Dom Pérignon did not create or develop Champagne. The Benedictine monk almost certainly never said “come quickly, I am tasting the stars!” But that is a discussion to keep bottled up for another day.

Last round

I drink Champagne when I am in love because it enhances everything. I drink Champagne when I am not in love to tide me over until I am in love. As you can see, my true love is Champagne

Here are some great bubbly suggestions, in case you forgot some over the holidays or… you need some for yourself:

Billecart 2008 Extra Brut Champagne ~ 97 Points
A. Margaine Champagne Premier Cru “Le Brut” ~ 93 Points
Colin 2012 Grand Cru Champagne ~ 95 Points
Dosnon Rose Brut Récolte Champagne ~ 95 Points
Carboniste 2018 Rose of Pinot Sparkling, Napa Valley ~ 93 Points
En Tirage 2010 Blanc de Blancs, Beckstoffer, Carneros, Napa ~ 96 Points
Andre Robert Champagne Brut “Reserve” Grand Cru, Blanc de Blancs, Le Mesnil ~ 94 Points
Cazals 2009 Champagne Millesime ~ 94 Points
Clotilde Brut “Grand-Cru” Champagne, France
Gonet-Medeville 1er Cru Cuvée Tradition Champagne ~ 93 Points

Monthuys Champagne NV Brut, 750ml  ~ 94 Points
Monthuys Champagne Brut NV in MAGNUM ~ 94 Points
Thienot Rose Champagne NV Reims, France ~ 93 Points
Stéphane Coquillette Carte d’Or Brut Champagne ~ 92 Points
Louis de Grenelle Platine Crémant de Loire
Allimant Laugner Crémant Rosé d’Alsace