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Wine articles

The Lost World of the Cider Lords

It has become a commonplace fact, beloved of pub quizzes, that an Englishman, Christopher Merret, invented Champagne. There is even an element of truth to it: Merret gave a paper to the Royal Society in 1672 outlining how to make wine fizzy. But he wasn’t the first to induce bubbles in a bottle. In the West Country, scientifically inclined gentlemen had been doing it for years — only they used cider, not wine.

In the 17th century there was a wine crisis in England. Home-grown vines had been killed by prolonged cold weather — something now known as the Little Ice Age — and imports were severely curtailed because of wars with France, the Netherlands and Spain. The problem became acute when Cromwell passed the Navigation Act of 1651. This was designed to stop Dutch shipping to England — and the Dutch controlled the trade in all German and a great deal of French wine. There was also a very high excise duty. And so affordable wine became scarce in England. What was needed was an alternative.

This article appeared in the Spectator. Click here to read the rest. 

By Henry

I worked in the wine trade and publishing before becoming a freelance writer and broadcaster. My work has appeared in the Spectator, the Guardian, the Oldie and Food & Wine magazine. I now works as features editor on the Master of Malt blog. Ihave been on BBC Radio 4, Radio 5 and Monocle Radio, and a judge for the BBC Radio 4’s Food & Farming Awards and for the Fortnum & Mason food and drink awards 2018. My book Empire of Booze: British History through the Bottom of a Glass won Fortnum & Mason debut drink book 2017. My second, The Home Bar, was published in October 2018.

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