Jean- Antoine Claude Chaptal, Comte de Chanteloup

Portrait of Jean-Antoine Chaptal (1815)  by Anicet Charles Gabriel Lemonnier

Portrait of Jean-Antoine Chaptal (1815) by Anicet Charles Gabriel Lemonnier

Winemakers all over the world consider him a friend, but in public, they might pretend they don’t know him. No, he isn’t a fuzzy underworld-figure selling steroids; nor is he an embarrassing relative, nor a wine writer with a price. He is Jean-Antoine Claude Chaptal, Comte de de Chanteloup!

Perhaps we should refer to him by the name and moniker by which he is best-known (to wine lovers, that is), simply Jean-Antoine Chaptal. Jean-Antoine, a scientist, professor, and industrialist, perfected the process of adding sugar to grape must before fermentation in order to increase the final level of alcohol in the wine. That process, now known as chaptalization, is still in use today.

Jean-Antoine was actually a fascinating man. Born on June 4, 1756, he died in 1832, having lived until age 76. He was a both a chemist and a medical doctor. He chaired the chemistry department of the medical school at the University of Montpellier, and is credited with coining the term “nitrogen” (fr. nitrogène) for a gas produced via nitric acid, previously referred to as “mephitic air.”

A learned, confident, and outspoken man, Chaptal was arrested and imprisoned during the French Revolution. Despite this, after the revolution Dr. Chaptal became a statesman, succeeding Lucien Bonaparte as Minister of the Interior of the First French Empire. During his time as Minister of the Interior, Dr. Chaptal established the Paris Hospital, built a chemical manufactory near Paris, founded a school of arts, and instituted the metric system in France.

Dr. Chaptal, conferred the title of Comte de Chanteloup by Napoleon himself, was a decorated man of science.  In 1816, he was nominated a member of the French Academy of Sciences by Louis XVIII. He was awarded the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor, the cordon of the Ordre de Saint-Michel, and his name is one of the 72 names inscribed on the Eiffel Tower. Rue Chaptal in Paris’ Montmarte neighborhood is named after him.

Perhaps, however, his greatest legacy is that silky Pinot Noir, that bracing Riesling, or that lighter-than-air Champagne that you are enjoying right now. As we know, it just might have been produced with a little help from chemistry, as seen by the mind of Jean-Antoine Claude Chaptal, Comte de Chanteloup.

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas – missjane@prodigy.net

About bubblyprof
Wine Writer and Educator...a 20-year journey from Bristol Hotels to Le Cordon Bleu Schools and the Society of Wine Educators

3 Responses to Jean- Antoine Claude Chaptal, Comte de Chanteloup

  1. Cristina says:

    That was fascinating! Thank-you for your research. As I wave my “geekdom” flag on behave of all of us that not only love wine but also the rich history behind our passion for wine. You are the best!
    Merry Christmas!

  2. Pingback: It’s all Greek to Godello | WineAlign

  3. Pingback: Till I reach Achaia ground « Godello

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