December 31, 2009
When tonight’s clock strikes midnight, you’ll probably raise your glass in a toast to the new year. And that glass will likely be filled with champagne (or sparkling wine, depending on where it was made).
Despite the French region’s claim on the name, champagne was not invented there. It was an English scientist and physician, Christopher Merrett, who discovered the process of double fermentation; he presented his paper on the subject to the Royal Society in 1662. (The Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon often erroneously gets credited with Merrett’s discovery.)
Since then, countless inventors have tried to improve upon the champagne experience. Search U.S. patents for the word, and hundreds of inventions come up (along with countless plants and other things that are champagne-colored). Here are a few:
- Electrically-illuminated drinking glass, 1908: An electric battery in the base lights up an incandescent bulb that sits in the champagne. Drink it fast, though, since this would likely heat up your bubbly.
- Bottle closure, 1928: The cork is gone in this arrangement of packaging materials. Instead, the bottle is closed off with a crown cap more likely to be found on your soda bottle.
- Liquid chilling device, 1938: A motorized device that claims to bring a bottle of bubbly to 40 degrees faster than your refrigerator.
- Champagne goblet or the like, 1962: This goblet from the Corning Glass Works is more like the glasses of champagne seen in classic movies than the flutes we now use. This is just one of many champagne glasses to receive a patent over the years.
- Display rack for champagne bottles, 1962: Ever wished you could have a tower of champagne bottles? Well, you can with this contraption, but it looks like you’ll need a lot of room.
- Pliers-like champagne cork remover, 1972: Cork removal is a popular area of invention in the world of sparkling wine. Seems to me, though, that a pair of pliers would likely work as well as this device.
- Safety champagne cork, 1983: Keep the cork tethered to the bottle with this contraption and there’s little chance of it flying through a window.
- Plate for use with stemware, 1994: This invention hopes to solve a problem every cocktail party-goer has had—how to hold onto a plate and glass at the same time and have a hand free. The solution? A plate with a notch into which you slip the stem of a glass and thus hold the two single handed.
- Ice bucket champagne opener, 1995: A 2-in-1 contraption that has an adjustable lever attached to the ice bucket to make opening the bottle easier while keeping the liquid cool.
- Champagne flute and straw, 1999: I’ve never had a desire to drink my champagne through a straw, but this glass has a straw that winds around it.
- Insulating sleeve for a glass, 2004: It’s like a beer koozie for your wine or champagne glass.
Which invention would make your New Year’s party better?
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