A 300-Year-Old Problem Is Solved

Anyone who has ever opened a bottle of Champagne is familiar with the problem: Champagne is as ephemeral as it is delicious. If you fail to finish the bottle, whatever you didn't drink soon goes flat. (Wait--we know what you're thinking: You always finish the bottle, you say. But what about the second bottle? Or the third?)

This has been the problem with Champagne since its invention 300 years ago. Indeed, its fleeting nature may even have contributed to Champagne's enduring allure, establishing its association with the world of luxury and special occasions. After all, if you have money to burn, or you're celebrating--or both--maybe you don't care if you waste a little Champagne goodness. 

But we do. We care about every drop.

We love Champagne so much, we don't ever want to waste a drop. And it's not just about the waste, per se. It's about what an economist might call opportunity cost: What if you decide not to open a bottle of Champagne specifically because you know you won't finish the bottle? Then you will have missed out on yet another opportunity to enjoy Champagne's singular deliciousness. That also is a great waste, and a bit of a minor tragedy if you ask us.

These two nemeses--waste versus want--collided on New Year's Eve, 1991. Company founder Evan Wallace was presented with a bottle of vintage 1982 Krug Rose' as a gift by the world-famous bartender Murray Stenson, who was on duty behind the bar of the historic Il Bistro Ristorante, a storied, romantic Italian nightspot nestled in the heart of Seattle's Pike Market on the cobblestones of Post Alley. 

It was infatuation at first sip; total perfection in a glass. Wallace inquired of the bartender why this wasn't on the menu for his enjoyment all of the time. Stenson smiled wryly at him, looked him in the eye, and assured him that he could not afford to drink Krug Rose on a university professor's salary. Wallace agreed with this assessment when told the price of the bottle.

But, Wallace protested, why not sell Krug by the glass, so one could at least have a small taste of such sublimity on a special occasion? No, said the sage bartender: You can't open a $300 bottle of Champagne to serve one glass, only to pour the remainder of the now-flat wine down the sink the next day. The boss wouldn't like that.

Wallace, who was a physicist by trade, immediately thought that this sounded like a solvable problem--physicists always think that--and immediately started scribbling ideas on bar coasters. By the time the huge, neon-lit clock over the Market struck midnight, he had a stack of thirty or forty scribbled bar coasters and perhaps one or two good ideas. He started work on the project on New Year's Day, hangover and all.

The first patents followed in 1996, and rough prototypes emerged by 1998. What initially seemed like a straight-forward problem became ever more maddeningly complex as the years passed. But finally, after 15 arduous years of development, the Perlage System reached the market in 2008. Dom Perignon signed on as Perlage Systems' first customer, and soon most of the other famous producers followed. By the end of the decade, Perlage could be found in thousands of the world's finest restaurants and bars.

A home version quickly followed, based on the same technology as the restaurant version, and a Champagne revolution was underway. The impact on the culture of Champagne was almost immediate. Before Perlage, a common conversation starter from a stranger who saw you enjoying a glass of bubbly in a bar was, "Hey--what's the special occasion?" After Perlage, questions like, "Is that a Récoltant-Manipulant Champagne?" became more common, as the culture of drinking fine Champagnes by the glass become normalized for the consumer, and affordable to the restaurant. 

No longer is Champagne a beverage strictly for celebration, or the province only of the wealthy. With Perlage, you can enjoy a glass of Champagne anytime. And we suggest you do.