Monday, April 13, 2015
Speaking of Dionysus...
It's a great time to visit the wineries of the Okanagan Valley. As the grapevines prepare to burst into leaf and the fruit trees come into flower, the highway has little traffic and the specialty wine stores are open. Many sell boutique wines unavailable elsewhere.
At the Summerhill Pyramid Winery in Kelowna, we learned how champagne is made and how to open sparkling wine: hold the cork and twist the bottle firmly. Once the friction seal is broken the pressure of the wine inside pushes the cork out smoothly.
We also heard about three history-making French women dubbed the "champagne widows."
Left alone at 27, Madame Cliquot took over her husband's business, the House of Cliquot, in 1805. To Veuve Cliquot (the widow Cliquot) we owe not only the design of the pressure-resistant champagne bottle, but rose champagne itself.
Another widow, Louise Pommery, took over the House of Pommery in 1860. This lady created the first dry champagne, or Brut. She also bought up some limestone caves beneath the city of Reims, and began the long tradition of storing and aging wine in this excellent temperature-controlled environment.
Lily Bollinger took over the House of Bollinger from her deceased husband in 1941. It was her champagne that was favoured by the fictional James Bond.
Dionysus take note: these stories dramatize the important contributions of women to Dionysian/Bacchanalean rites.