Friday, 4 April 2014

Champagne - A Sparklingly English Invention

A closeup of a glass of champagne with a cherry
An English sparkling wine by any other name tastes just as sweet
(photo by Dave Clements)


Noun. Mid-17th century.
[Champagne, a former province of NE France which now corresponds to the Champagne-Ardenne administrative region.]

1 (A) wine from Champagne, a region (formerly a province) of NE France;
especially (a) naturally sparkling white wine from Champagne or elsewhere;
loosely (a) sparkling white wine; a drink of any of these. M17

2 figurative. Something exhilarating or excellent. L19

3 A pale straw colour. L19 
A bottle of Camel Valley sparkling wine
Camel Valley
It's rather good - look it up here
Woah, woah, woah, Frenchies! Don't make me go all gangsta coz I don't wanna have to pop a cork in your flask, but you is making beaucoup bills off an English invention. That's right mutha cuvées - Champagne is English. Get over it.

If you're still rather incredulous (my apologies - I can only keep up my faux gangsta speak for so long), then let me drop a few facts. While Dom Pérignon is popularly credited as being the father of champagne, the truth is that it was English scientist Christopher Merret who both first documented the deliberate addition of sugar to produce sparkling wine, and developed the glassware capable of containing the bubbly. At the time Merret was doing this in the 1660s, the French quite literally didn't have the bottle, as their inferior glass was liable to explode under pressure. It was a further two decades before Dom Pérignon laid claim to his champagne producing methods, after he had spent most of his career trying to eliminate bubbles from the process as he had considered them a flaw.

If you're Francophilic filaments are positively phlegmulating at this outrage, do please consider some further reading from the ever-reliable and non-partisan quality periodicals Daily Mail and Daily Express, as well as The Telegraph and Global Post if further evidence is needed.

A portrait of Christopher Merret
Christopher Merret:
 Lexicolatry (and history, the truth, etc, etc) is on your side

Are you a Franchophile full of sour grapes and sham pain?
(quite possibly the worst joke on Lexicolatry ever)

Are you willing to ferment unrest to take down this brutal Franco-Champagnic tyranny?
(a bit better)

Do please leave your bubbliest, most celebratory comments below.


  1. So champagne is possibly a misnomer then?
    I wonder what it could be called - is there a wine-growing area in Mr. Merret's birthplace? Or maybe just call it Merret?
    Whatever the name, and whoever invented it - thank you by the way! - I shall still enjoy it!

    1. I remember reading about some push to have a drink called Merret, at least the sparkling wine produced in England. "A glass of Merret" sounds rather good too - at least his name wasn't Ramsbottom or something similarly unpalatable.

  2. Indeed. The French actually wrote a clause protecting the name in the Treaty of Versaille. Several million Frenchman had just been killed but let's sort out the important things first!
    English sparkling wine is really taking off at the moment. Apparently this improvement in the English 'Champagne' is due to global warming (if you believe such a thing), so that the ideal Champagne producing conditions are starting to shift North from France to England, which in some places (South East) has almost exactly the same type of chalky soil.
    Carbon Dioxide's bringing Champagne to its real home!
    In your face Frenchies.

    1. That's fascinating about the Treaty of Versailles - I didn't know that at all.

      And yes, it's comforting to know that, while there might be wildly erratic weather, increased flooding, tsunamis, droughts and extinctions, there is also an upside to this global warming malarkey.