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The History of the Muselet - A Champagne Invention



Like many of Champagne's inventions, the infamous Dom Pérignon has tried to take all the credit for being the first to "muzzle" champagne! The term "muselet" is derived from the French word "museler", which means "to muzzle", as the wire cage effectively fixes the cork into the lip of the bottle. His use of these muzzles was in a different context however, as he worked exclusively with still wines. It is said that after seeing the closures on the gourds carried by monks returning from Santiago de Compostela in Spain, he had the idea to replace the original Champagne stoppers, which were wooden bungs wrapped in oil-soaked hemp and sealed with wax and a cork stopper.


However, it was only after 1728 when sparkling wines were shipped in bottles, that the securing of the stopper only became an issue. At first, the stopper was secured to the bottle with string, but in 1844, Adolphe Jacquesson filed a patent for a method that involved inserting a piece of tinplate between the cork and its ties to balance the forces and prevent recoulage. The first capsule was created!


Patent n°412 registered on November 15th, 1844 by Adolphe Jacquesson for improvements in the apparatus and processes for corking bottles (Source: INPI archives).



Around 1855, Nicaise Petitjean patented a string-tying machine (also known as a cheval de bois) with a lever action that increased the closure force tenfold, allowing the use of reinforced ties, and made the stopper more secure. At the time, many houses opted for metal wires instead of string, but was abandoned as the consumer had to cut the wire with metal cutters whilst holding the cork down.

A contemporary example of traditional string muselet by the elusive Champagne Paul Hartwood


The final innovation was the pre-forming of the binding wire, which gave the first muselets. The first wire cages were manufactured around 1880, with the wire replacing the string tying down the capsule and cork.


Whilst the House of Pommery was the first to use the wire cage, it was a version with three strands instead of a four-strand design. Many houses followed suit, but with a four-strand design that secured the stopper more effectively.


A piece of history available for purchase on eBay: Pommery capsule for a three branch cage.



In 1884, René Lebegue was employed by Moët & Chandon to review the House's use of the wire cage to fit the wire cage with a ring that untwisted for uncorking. This is when we started popping open champagne after the famous six twists!


Up until the 1970s, most houses had capsules pierced with a hole in the middle like the Pommery example above. Cabaret hostesses had a record-keeping system for bottles of champagne consumed by customers. When a bottle was sold, they would thread the cap onto a nail to keep tally, and at the end of the evening would submit the pins for a percentage of the sales. This prevented any disputes, and the pins took up less space in their bags than champagne corks.


So in short, this invention which is now recognised worldwide, is a distrinctly champenois creation. And a collaborative one at that. It has inspired me to create a full collection of jewellery, which will add a touch of luxury and sophistication to any outfit, and immediately take the lucky one who wears it or sees it back to moments of joy and festivity!





 


About the author


Having worked in the industry since 2009, Lucy is a self confessed champagne nerd. When she joined the French Chamber of Commerce to help grower producers looking to import to Australia, she fell in love with champagne, not because of the glitz & glamour but because of the undeniable mix of art & science required to create the world’s most prestigious wines and the dedication to traditional winemaking. Over the past 12 years, Lucy has consulted to houses such as Jacquart, Pertois-Lebrun & Grande Charte, and was a pivotal in developing the Vranken-Pommery Monopole brands in Asia Pacific over 5 years. She has an acute knowledge of wine and specifically champagne and is passionate about bringing more interesting cuvees to wine lovers and collectors. She has called the red dot home since 2019, and has been designing jewellery for wine lovers since 2018.

 



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Gold Animate cork (1).jpg
Gold Animate cork (1).jpg