Did You Know…? English wine.

Christopher Merrett

In the Cotswold town of Winchcombe there is a plaque which marks the occasion when an Englishman probably became the first person to record the existence of a phenomenon we now take for granted – sparkling wine. It was Christopher Merrett – a scientist, physician, naturalist and metallurgist, who in 1662, first documented the existence of bubbles in an alcoholic beverage.

In a paper presented to the newly formed Royal Society, Merrett described how English winemakers had been adding sugar to wines to give them a refreshing, sparkling quality – 30 years before a certain, very famous, monk in France’s Champagne region. “It was the first time anyone had described the process or used the word “sparkling” to describe the end product”, Winchcombe historian Jean Bray has recorded. “Our wine coopers of recent times use vast quantities of sugar and molasses to all sorts of wines to make them drink brisk and sparkling and to give them spirit” Merrett wrote. The irony today, possibly, is that English sparkling wine is now the finest it has ever been, and may in time start to challenge Champagne in terms of quality as well as style.

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