Mario Fregoni, professor of wine-making in the agriculture department of the Catholic University of Piacenza, is taking the fizz out of French national prestige with a broadside straight at the flagship of France's wine industry.
After painstaking research, Professor Fregoni has come to the conclusion that fizzy wine was not invented by Dom Perignon, the 17th-century French monk, but by the ancient Romans. In a devastating coup de grâce , Professor Fregoni also suggested that Dom Perignon probably never existed.
"My research is carefully documented, tracing the history of fizzy wine for the past 3,000 years," Professor Fregoni declared.
With detached academic indifference to the irreparable damage he could be doing to French grandeur, Professor Fregoni maintains that the technique of re-fermentation, the basis of Champagne production, was pioneered by the ancient Romans.
Before that, there were at least 1,000 years during which fizzy wine was produced with a single fermentation process.
His oldest source is biblical - a psalm in which God is described as holding a goblet of frothy wine. He continues with Homer, who describes in the Iliad a "foaming cup of sweetest Bacchus".
Professor Fregoni quotes Virgil: "He appeared with a cup of brimming gold and without waiting an instant emptied the foaming goblet."
Professor Fregoni said that the Romans were familiar with wines that became spontaneously fizzy during initial fermentation and with the technique of a second fermentation.
At Pompeii there are remains of a wine cellar in which a stream of cold water was used to cool wine during this second fermentation.
This would indicate a technique similar to that traditionally used to make modern Italian spumante .
Professor Fregoni accepted that re-fermentation in the bottle was "perfected" in Champagne and that French producers eventually bettered their Italian "teachers".