It has been mentioned a few times in recent years, and here's another one - that it was the British, NOT the French, who invented champagne.

Champagne was invented by the Englishman Christopher Merritt, who was born in 1614.

He devised champagne-making techniques derived from the cider-making industry - cider (alcoholic apple juice) is a popular drink in the South West of England, an area of which Merritt was a native.

This was over 30 years before Dom Perignon supposedly invented champagne.

Being a nation of alcoholics, nowadays the British are the world's second-biggest consumers of champagne after the French, and Britain is the world's biggest importer of champagne.

Pardon Messieurs, but champagne was a BRITISH invention, claims new research

By James Tozer
27th September 2008
Daily Mail

Christopher Merrett: New claims suggest he invented the process - and the bottle - for making champagne

It is the most quintessentially French drink, and the pride of a whole nation.

But there could be consternation across the Channel after a claim that champagne was invented by an Englishman.

Born in 1614, self-taught West Country scientist Christopher Merrett came from an area better known for producing cider.

However, records show he devised two techniques that were fundamental to making champagne decades before Benedictine monk Dom Perignon, who is usually associated with the invention of the ultimate luxury drink.

He used techniques from the cider industry to control the second fermentation which makes wine fizzy and - crucially - invented the stronger glass needed to prevent the bottle exploding.

Merrett, also spelled Merret, gave a paper to the Royal Society in 1662 describing how adding 'vast quantities of sugar and molasses' to French wine made it taste 'brisk and sparkling'.

That was more than 30 years before Dom Perignon's work at the Abbey of Hautvillers at Epernay marked the 'official' beginning of a multi-million-pound industry which the French have jealously protected ever since.

Merrett also carried out experiments which led to his masterwork The Art of Glass, explaining how stronger bottles could be blown by adding iron, manganese or carbon to the molten mixture.

Tough glass was essential to prevent the pressure created by the fermenting wine causing the bottles to explode.

Early French accounts of champagne production describe the revolutionary bottles as being made of 'verre anglais', or English glass.

Merrett's crucial contribution to the history of both champagne and cider is recounted by author James Crowden in his new book, Ciderland.

He said yesterday: 'The French will no doubt guard their rights to the methode champenoise to the last cork and rigorously prevent anyone using the champagne name outside their tightly-controlled region.

'But they cannot claim, however ingenious they are, to have invented the method for the simple reason they did not have the new stronger English bottles.

'It is the invention and manufacture of these bottles that is the key to the whole enigma as much as the addition of the extra sugar.'

The British are the world's second-biggest consumers of champagne, after the French

The French have played down Mr Crowden's claim, insisting that while the fermentation technique is 'interesting', the drink Merrett proposed would have borne little relationship to champagne.


1) A bottle of champagne contains around 50 million bubbles at three times the pressure of a car tyre

2) On tasting it for the first time, Dom Perignon is said to have exclaimed: "I am tasting the stars!"

3) The largest bottle is a Nebuchadnezzar (15 litres) followed by a Balthazar (12 litres), Salmanazar (9 litres), Methuselah (6 litres), Joroboam (3 litres) and magnum (1.5 litres, twice an ordinary bottle).

4) The British are the world's second-biggest consumers of champagne after the French, at over 60 million bottles a year. Britain is also the world's biggest importer of champagne.