Pulling the plug
The bubbles in sparkling wine which has been made in the traditional méthode champenoise come from a plug of yeast inserted into the neck of the wine bottle, which causes secondary fermentation. The yeast is removed before the final cork is inserted.
Champagne’s ‘invention’ has for hundreds of years been attributed to the Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon. The fact that he was actually preoccupied with still wines from the region and that champagne probably came about as an evolutionary process hasn’t dented the monk’s fame: it is, after all, his name that has adorned Moët & Chandon’s prestige cuvée since its first appearance in 1937.
In the late 19th century, when glass manufacturing was much more rudimentary, champagne bottles had a nasty habit of exploding in the cellars in Epernay and Reims (the two main cities of Champagne) – so much so that up to a third of stock could be lost each year, and there were actual fatalities from flying glass in the cellars.
This article was published on 8th August 2011 so certain details may not be up to date.