Off Duty: The teetotaller who created Champagne

A monk blended varieties to invent Champagne.

The most famous of all sparkling wines is undoubtedly Champagne.

Tennis, football, birthdays - no celebration is complete without a glass of bubbly.

But it was not until the 18th century that Champagne as we know it was born. In the 15th century, both red and white Champagnes were made but these were still wines, light elegant Pinot Noir reds and chardonnay whites like that of Burgundy.

It was Dom Perignon, a monk from the Abbey of Hautvillers, who is credited with creating Champagne. The abbey's cellar master for almost 50 years until his death in 1715, he appreciated that Champagne was a better wine if created by blending grape varieties.

He worked out which wines would re-ferment in bottles to create bubbles, but used the knowledge to prevent re-fermentation - he reputedly never drank.

If there is no celebration, why not toast Dom Perignon with a glass of Champagne one sunny afternoon this summer?

- Alan Johnson is managing director of Elegusto Wines

TASTING TIME

Gosset Rose £34.50

One of our favourites. Very few Champagne houses can rival the style and elegant presentation of a Gosset bottle. The liquid therein is one of only a small number of really superb rose Champagnes, and Gosset can boast the Celebris to be in the very top tier of any sparkling wine. The Pinot Noir grapes are from vineyards sited around Ay and make a wine that is bold and elegant, dry and biscuity, yet bursting with ripe strawberries.

Moutard NV £18.95

A real bargain, yet in style extremely light and elegant. The clay and chalky soils of the Cotes des Bar give this Champagne a rich and distinctive aroma. It has a fine mousse and a lovely biscuity character on the palate, which lasts well through to the finish. It is a traditional blend of 50 per cent each of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes.

For more details or to purchase these wines and special GP deals, please visit: www.elegusto.co.uk/GP or call 0845 351 0600.

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