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Adding sugar increases the alcohol content and effervescence of wines, but the problem remains how much to add so that bottles don't explode. This problem was partly solved by chemist Jean-Baptiste François, who developed a scientific formula in 1836.
This reduced breakage to around 5%, as producers were now able to control the increase in bottle pressure. Their wines were still half as effervescent as today's, but champagne production became truly viable, attracting more and more commercially-minded producers. These included the Germans Krug, Deutz, Mumm and Bollinger, as well as several French houses, including Mercier and Pommery, founded in 1858. These merchants quickly created their own brands and established themselves on foreign markets. Some native Champenois, such as the Comte de Villermont, were reluctant to put their name on a label, but not his son-in-law, Jacques Bollinger.
By 1870, production had risen from barely 1 million bottles at the turn of the century to 20 million. The hillsides of the Marne are almost entirely covered with vines. Tastes differed from market to market, with the Russians being the biggest fans of sweet champagne. According to wine columnist Patrick Schmitt, "the Russian tsars drank champagnes with a sugar concentration of 200 grams per liter, i.e. higher than that of a can of Coca Cola®". In 1876, Roederer, the "official supplier to the Russian Imperial Court", created its famous Cuvée Cristal.
Continental Europe, including France, has a preference for sweeter champagnes than those consumed today, because champagne is served with or after dessert. In Great Britain, champagne is reserved for the aperitif. Matured sweet wines such as port and Madeira were drunk after meals. Following the signing of the Treaty of Methuen in 1703, Portuguese wines benefited from a lower tariff than French wines, and this advantage was only abolished by William Gladstone, Chancellor of the United Kingdom, in 1860. An exceptional and expensive beverage, champagne became accessible to the middle classes, and sales tripled over the next thirty years. By 1900, Britons were drinking 10,750,000 bottles, or 40% of production, a record that would not be beaten until the 1970s.
Clicquot and Heidsieck began shipping " dry" champagne to England as early as 1857, and Bollinger followed their example by offering very dry champagne in 1868. Other terms, such as extra-sec, appeared as the taste for sweeter champagnes faded. In 1874, Madame Pommery - a widowed businesswoman of the same calibre as the widow Clicquot, who had opened an office in London thirteen years earlier - launched the first brut champagne. For decades, Pommery champagne would be the most popular in the UK, even though for a time, brut was only of interest to a minority of connoisseurs.
During the war of 1870, which brought the reign of Napoleon III to an end, the vineyards were devastated and Paris was besieged. After the Prussians withdrew, Champagne entered a golden age that lasted until 1914. In reaction to the horrors of the First World War, this period of peace, gaiety and prosperity, during which the arts and sciences flourished, came to be known as the Belle Époque.
It was the era of Toulouse-Lautrec, Maxim's and the Folies Bergère. Copying Parisian high society - the Tout-Paris - the bourgeois went to dinners where champagne flowed freely. The image of this wine is omnipresent, from posters in the metro to advertisements in magazines: the aim is to convey the "joie de vivre" that its bubbles convey. Sex was a recurring theme. One House decided to depict a saucy old gentleman kneeling on the ground, wrestling with the garter of a young woman, presumably his mistress: the House offered a pair of garters with every bottle of champagne purchased.
But as Paris prepares for the 1889 Universal Exhibition, whose entrance will be a metal structure destined to be "temporary" - the Eiffel Tower - Eugène Mercier has 24 white oxen and 18 horses pull the world's largest barrel of champagne to the capital. News of this spectacular publicity spread as far as San Francisco, and while the great Champagne houses capitalized on Paris, its fin-de-siècle decadence and glamour, for the sake of their image, their attention was more focused on the emerging foreign markets, such as America.
Charles Heidsieck, the " Charlie of Champagne ", first crossed the Atlantic in 1852 and was captured by Union troops during the American Civil War. In the decade following the end of that war (1865), exports to the United States totaled around 400,000 bottles, with the Maison Piper-Heidsieck leading the way. In 1876, Mumm released Cordon Rouge, which was an instant hit in France. Tourists had no trouble remembering this champagne, precisely because of the red cordon passed around the neck of the bottle. Five years later, it was launched in the United States and quickly spread to nightclubs, restaurants and brothels, as well as the jazz clubs of New Orleans, where Cordon Rouge Galop was even played. In 1903, Moët & Chandon' s White Seal was the best-selling wine in the United States: Moët exported 1,200,000 bottles, a quarter of its entire production.