The History of Alcohol: From Champagne to Whiskey

TLDR This podcast explores the history of alcohol, from the invention of a strong glass bottle that allowed for the creation of champagne to the rise of whiskey as a popular drink. It discusses the importance of prestige and marketing in the success of these beverages, as well as the influence of British and Scottish merchants in shaping their development.

Timestamped Summary

00:00 The hosts discuss the history of alcohol, particularly champagne, and how the invention of a strong glass bottle by Sir Kenham Digby in 1630 allowed for the creation of sparkling wine.
05:01 Champagne was not originally fizzy, but the British applied scientific rigor to make it fizzy before the French perfected the process and turned it into a semi-industrial process, and champagne was created for British tastes.
09:37 The value of champagne is not necessarily due to its production cost or rarity, but rather its prestige and marketing, as the quality of the wine itself is often less important than its ability to be shipped to Britain.
14:16 The names of the Chateau in Bordeaux became brand names, with the Chateau's pictures on the bottles, while in Burgundy, the bottles only had the name of the region, and the wine would be marketed by the merchant who brought it.
18:53 Portuguese wine was initially considered rustic and low-quality until the 18th century when it started to improve in quality and gain popularity, especially after the Marquis de Pombal demarcated the boundaries of the port wine region.
23:09 Port wine houses like Sandiman's and Taylor's have been owned by Portuguese and British families, but many are now owned by larger companies, and the process of making Sherry as we know it today began in the 18th century with the blending of young and old wines.
27:59 The fortification of Sherry and Port wines was not primarily for transportation purposes, but rather to cater to the robust and earthy tastes of the English, who enjoyed big, punchy, and spicy flavors in their drinks.
32:05 The Victorians were generally quite abstemious in their drinking habits, although there were still popular cocktails like Sherry Cobblers and Blind Man's Buff, and beer was a common alternative to water in London, while Masala wine, originally created as a substitute for Madeira, was a strong and long-lasting wine that was popular in England but has not survived to the present day.
36:13 The drink that officers in the Royal Navy drank in the 19th century was a strong Madeira or Sherry style sweet wine called Massala, but it went out of fashion and started being used for cooking instead.
40:51 Whiskey was originally created for English tastes, but it was the Scottish merchants who turned it into a popular drink by blending high-quality Highland whiskies with low-quality lowland whiskies and aging them in leftover wine barrels.
45:23 American whisky is made from American grains like corn and rice, and while it may be enjoyed in cocktails, it is not as popular or well-marketed as Scottish whisky.
49:56 Whiskey companies are making whiskies aimed at the Chinese market, but it's more about marketing and packaging rather than flavor, and now everyone makes whiskey using the Scotch template.
Categories: History

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