I love the way we celebrate the New Year—and other festive occasions—with a happy accident. Sparkling wine came about when the wine was bottled too soon, before the fermentation process had been completed. Contrary to popular belief, the monk, Dom Perignon, didn’t invent champagne. He actually did his very best to rid ”the devil’s wine” of its bubbles because the pressure caused bottles to explode or corks to fly off, wasting vast quantities of precious wine (the muselet—the wire frame that fits the cork to the bottle—was only invented in the 1840s). Gradually, as the process of bottling bubbles was refined and thanks to some skillful marketing, champagne came to represent upward mobility, sumptuous grandeur, festive occasions, rites of passage—and exclusivity. As you know, sparkling wine may only be called champagne if it comes from the Champagne region of northeast France.
While I have always enjoyed champagne, or even its poor second cousin, sparkling wine, I am learning a lot more about the intricacies of it thanks to the New York Times bestseller, The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It by Tilar J. Mazzeo. It’s an extraordinary story of a small, plain, young widow who, against all odds in the aftermath of the French Revolution and in the clutch of the Napleonic wars, made a resounding success of her wine business. The book was a Christmas present, and so it made perfect sense to celebrate the New Year with a distinctive bottle of Veuve Clicquot, or “Widow Clicquot.” I hope your celebration was as enjoyable!
champagne, fun, holidays