The story of Champagne, like anything worthy of history, has its share of mythology. One thing is indisputable: The intoxicating liquid delicacy originated in the Champagne region of France (and, technically, only bubbly from that region can rightfully be called Champagne).
Legend says that bubbly wine was invented by Dom Pérignon, the Benedictine monk whose name has become synonymous with fine champagne, in the 1700s. In reality, bubbly wine was common, but was considered undesirably flawed. Dom Pérignon devoted most of his winemaking time to trying to keep bubbles out of his wine. In the cool climate of Champagne, that was a true challenge.
It is true that Dom Pérignon perfected champagne, first by removing the grape skins to create a lighter white wine, then by taking advantage of the climate of the wine cellars to make the naturally effervescent wine desirable. By the 1800s, it was literally the drink of kings.
Today, of course, you don't have to be a king to drink Champagne, though at well over $100 a bottle for Dom Pérignon Champagne, it wouldn't hurt to have a royal bank account. Or pick up a domestic bubbly for New Year's for as little as $10 (or less!) -- hey, there's a recession on. We won't tell.