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Bring on the Bubbly!

A statue of Dom Perignon outside the Moet and Chandon winery in France.

Greg Elms/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

Do you pop a bottle to ring in the New Year? You can thank a long line of sparkling winemakers, from the ancient Romans to an innovative French monk.

Sparkling wine has actually been around much longer than proper Champagne [source: Galante]. The first sparkling wines were probably produced around 1600 years ago, when ancient Romans began growing grapes in the Champagne region of France.

Dom Perignon may not have technically invented Champagne, since sparkling wine had been around long before he started experimenting with fermentation in a Benedictine abbey during the late 1600s, but he did come up with a method to create white wine using red grapes, which is a key part of the Champagne-making process [source: Long]. Around 1693 the monk was also trying to develop a Champagne without bubbles, because -- as all good winemakers know -- oxygen is wine's enemy [source: Long]. Luckily, he didn't succeed! Perignon's Champagne-making techniques are some of the same ones used to produce the bottles we drink today.

Champagne -- and other sparkling wines -- gets those bubbles from a special two-step process. Instead of just fermenting the wine once, winemakers add yeast and sugar, allowing the wine to ferment again. The bubbles that tickle your nose in a glass of champagne are carbon dioxide from all of that yeast metabolizing the sugar in the second part of fermentation [source: Polidori].

Over the centuries, winemakers in Champagne became extremely protective of their growing and production methods and the use of their region's name on the bottle. Only sparkling wines from France's Champagne region can bear the name "Champagne" [source: Galante].

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