Champagne was imported to England from the village of Ay to Cardinal Wolsey in 1518, although we can assume that the Royal Court enjoyed champagne on occasions since as early as 1359 when Edward III decided to lay siege on Reims. It is unlikely that he came back empty handed!
Champagne in cask was popularised in London society by the exiled Marquis de St Evremont in 1662. It became fashionable under Charles II, largely as a result of changes in the method of glass making
Champagne, with its tendency to re-ferment, requires a container that can withstand 5 atmospheres of pressure.
One opinion is that normal wood-burning furnaces failed to reach a high enough temperature to produce this.
Changes were also necessitated by a ban on the use of charcoal for glass making. Admiral Sir Robert Mansell
had concerns for the future of British shipbuilding as the forests were being decimated by the charcoal burners.
1615, he persuaded King James I to forbid glass furnaces to be fired by wood.
Necessity thus resulted in the development of coal-burning furnaces which produced stronger, darker glass bottles which were ideal for storing champagne. Many noblemen would order the wine in casks, add a dose of sugar and bottle it. The English were inveterate improvers, but in this case, as Merrett points out, the sugar was added for the express purpose of making the wines sparkling and to increase alcohol.
The technology spread to France and bottling champagne became far less of a high-risk operation. The drink became popular at the court of the Duc d'Orleans. However, despite the new bottles, only 10% of champagne was fizzy. This changed in the 19th. century after experimentation succeeded in regulating the second fermentation process. Until this time, the French made Champagne by the 'Rural' method' i.e. Continuation of the first fermentation
Jancis Robinson - The Oxford Companion of Wine
LaRousse -Encyclopaedia of Wine
RJ Charleston English glass and the glass industry in England circa 400-1940
Several specialists have developed skills since the early 90's.David Carr Taylor have been winning prizes in England and France for over 10 years, and Nyetimber in Sussex are gaining wine-press headlines for their newly released product. Will Davenport at Rotherfield and Mike Roberts at Ridgeview have vineyards dedicated solely to the production of Sparkling wine. On a smaller scale,Cornish patriotism and no little skill has ensured that Camel Valley Brut (made with Seyval)outsells French brands around Bodmin and won an IWC Gold in 2005 while at local level, both Stanlake Park and Fawley have won gold medals for their sparkling - the latter using the Bacchus grape