Festival of Fizz

Saturday 26/07/14 00:00 - 27/07/14 00:00


A weekend of celebrations marking 400th anniversary of the birth of locally born-and-raised Christopher Merrett, who is attributed with playing a major part in the creation of "fizz" more than 20 years before Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon famously introduced champagne to the world in Epernay, France.

The Festival of Fizz in Winchcombe over the weekend of July 26th/27th is not only being themed “Covent Garden in the Heart of Winchcombe”, but might also shake the bottle once again in the great debate over who put the bubble into bubbly.

A self-taught scientist, naturalist and glassmaker, Christopher Merrett first recorded the recipe for transforming still wines into sparkling wine in 1662 - several years before Dom Pierre Pérignon famously laid claim to the process in France.

Having grown-up in an area better known for cider-making, Merrett devised two techniques that were fundamental to making sparkling wine: the incorporation of a technique made in cider making to control the second fermentation; and - crucially - the invention of glass that was strong enough to prevent the bottle exploding.

Merrett presented 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” - at least two decades before Dom Perignon's work at the Abbey of Hautvillers at Epernay marked the start of champagne industry which the French have jealously protected ever since.

Merrett’s experiments led to his masterwork The Art of Glass, which explained how stronger bottles could be blown by adding iron, manganese or carbon to the molten mixture. And it was this invention that is the key to the subsequent production of all sparkling wines, cider, and champagne.

Aimed at putting the fun into fizz, the festival to mark Christopher Merrett’s 400th birthday will take place in Winchcombe, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. It will feature talks, pig roast, home-made local burgers, music, entertainment, a chance to try and buy samples of fizz, cider, perry, sparkling wines and soft drinks. A ‘Family Funday Sunday’ will include face painting, bubble cannons, foam party, competitions,street trail to include flora and fauna, plus much more being added even now!

Most importantly of all, it will also be a celebration of Christopher Merrett’s discoveries, and England’s contribution to the production of sparkling wine which many wine experts believe were first initiated in the Limoux region of France in the mid-16th century.

Strawberry Hill, the nearest vineyard to Winchcombe, and Westons Cider of Much Marcle, Hales Farm of Winchcombe are three companies to have already confirmed their involvement in the Festival of Fizz.

Organiser, Christopher Sweet, has been “overwhelmed” by the interest and ideas people in the town have put forward for the Festival, and has confirmed that four of the main pubs and inns in Winchcombe - The White Hart, Wesley House, Plaisterers Arms and The Lion - will also all be involved.

Further tourist information about The Cotswolds can be found at www.cotswolds.com.