Champagne: Definition, Region, and History for this Elegant Sparkling Wine - Part One

Very few wines are as universally known as Champagne.  While a wine lover may certainly know the names of Napa, Bordeaux, Burgundy, or even Chianti, even the most ardent teetotaler surely recognizes the name Champagne.  Champagne is a wine that is intertwined with history and at least the last 300 years of civilization.

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Champagne has a long history of making wine although it was not always the sparkling white wine we think of today.  It lies at the cross roads of Western and Central Europe and thus, has seen many different peoples traverse its lands.

Like most of France, the Romans introduced the grape into this area by at least the fifth century.  In the ensuing centuries thru the twentieth, various armies have crossed the region wreaking havoc and destruction.  The main cities of Epernay and Reims have continually been destroyed and rebuilt. During medieval times, Churches owned the vineyards and monks produced the wines.

World War I saw some of its fiercest fighting in the region.  Many vineyard workers were killed trying to harvest grapes.  The vast caves under the wineries served as makeshift bunkers and hospitals during World War II.  Invading armies continually confiscated mass quantities of the wine as spoils of war while the locals went to great lengths to hide their finished wines from invading armies.  Throughout it all, Champagne has endured and eventually thrived.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.

Perhaps the most famous person in the history of Champagne is the Benedictine monk, Dom Perignon who was a member of the Abbey of Hautvillers.

Many legends have sprung up about his monk, some based on truth and others pure fiction.  There is no doubt, however, that he was an influential and important person in the history of Champagne.  One legend has it, that Dom Perignon invented sparkling wine and was so enthralled he said he was drinking the stars.  In fact, Dom Perignon did not invent sparkling wine.