Bottega del Vino, Verona, Spring 2007: four Champagne lovers get together to talk about the production of Italian sparkling wines and of how to obtain success in a world-market dominated by the French school. Glass after glass (albeit always remaining sober) the four enthusiasts – Severino Barzan, Luigi Bortolotti, Carlo Rossi and Beppe Giuliano – have decided that there is only one way to do this. Italian producers must be challenged and convinced to compete with their colleagues, not only with French producers but with wine-makers from all areas and latitudes of the world, in order to create Metodo Classico sparkling wine with every variety of vine.
But it is not sufficient for the wine to be sparkly: this is the only first important step in the selection. To enter the contest it is necessary that a second fermentation takes place inside the bottle, a method encoded by Dom Perignon on the basis of previous experiences in Italy and in the south of France and rendered possible by a technological progress in Great Britain leading to the production of a glass capable of withstanding the pressure of sparkling.
Christopher Merrett was not a legend but history, when had a particular interest in industrial uses of minerals, publishing papers on smelting and tin mining. A particular scientist, one of the founder of the Royal Society. In 1662 he translated Antonio Neri’s The Art of Glass (1611) and added 147 pages of his own, from other authors and his own observations. His descriptions of glassmaking indicate an intimate familiarity with the process, but his modern claim to fame lies in a passing mention to a different field altogether. On 17 December 1662 he presented Some Observations concerning the Ordering of Wines to the Royal Society. In this paper, unearthed by wine writer Tom Stevenson, one of our Jury presidents, Merret describes winemakers adding quantities of sugar and molasses to make the wines drink brisk and sparkling.Today this would be called the méthode champenoise, the addition of liqueur de tirage in order to stimulate a secondary fermentation that produces the bubbles in sparkling wine.
Spontaneous secondary fermentation had occurred in still wines since antiquity; most glass bottles of the time were not strong enough to contain the high pressures thus generated and so exploding bottles were an occupational hazard of winemaking. Sir Robert Mansell obtained a monopoly on glass production in England in the early 17th century and industrialised the process; his coal-powered factories in Newcastle upon Tyne produced much stronger bottles than were available in France. As a result the English could deliberately induce a secondary fermentation in wine without the risk of blowing up the bottle, long before Dom Pérignon is traditionally considered to have invented sparkling wine in Champagne around 1697.
Although Merrett seems to have been more interested in making glass than in making wine, producers of English sparkling wine have been quick to use his name as a term to describe their wines.
But it was thanks mainly to Challenge Euposia if for the first time ever the British Fizz obtained international success and begun their commercial fortune.
This is how “Challenge Euposia” began. It was first called “Bollicine del Mondo” (World Bubbles) and aimed at rewarding the universality of Metodo Classico, the spumante par excellance and its scouting, that is, the desire to innovate which animated newcomers to the contest year after year.
Challenge initiated at the Bottega del Vino- sancta sanctorum of wine in Verona- and the contest has now become the back-bench for many other activities. Surprisingly, today it is one of the most imitated contests in Italy and in the world which has given rise to a whole series of events from Milan to London…Thanks for your trust, friends. Continue to follow us
What about the rules? Severino Barzan, one of the few Italians called to guide the coupage of the blends in Champagne, decides and imposes the rules of the “Grand Jury Européen” and, above all, highlights the path that has always been taken. Everybody tastes everything without knowing what they are tasting. There is a complete separation between wine and judges. Sensations and competence are guaranteed without fear of the brand.
It is thanks to this know-how and reliability that “Challenge Euposia” has conquered the trust of its early competitors: English producers, producers from Eastern Europe, Italians, and French wine-makers from Limoux and the small maisons of Champagne. Thanks to “Challenge Euposia” many young producers have obtained international recognition, even before being celebrated at home.