Plaquemusephilia may well sounds like a rare dental condition which might be apt considering that Yapp Brothers was started by Robin Yapp, whose profession BW (before wine) was that of a dentist. But in fact, it is the name used for collecting Champagne cork capsules. I hadn’t realised that these were so collectable until my recent visit to see our Champagne producer, Gilles Dumangin, at his house in the picturesque village of Chigny-les-Roses, situated on the plains between Reims and Epernay. Most of the local houses seemed to have specially made wooden boards either hung up on the wall or placed on a coffee table to display their collections.
Historically, champagne bottles used to have a simple piece of wood wrapped in cloth and then sealed with wax as a stopper. This method, especially with the pressure build up in bottle during secondary fermentation, wasn’t ideal and resulted in many explosive incidents and much wasted wine. Then, along came Adolphe Jacquesson – a hugely creative person, who devised numerous methods to improve the processes connected with the making of champagne which, at that time, were still very much at the trial and error stage.
Jacquesson is credited with the idea of planting vines in rows in collaboration with Dr Guyot and for a process of measuring sugar density with the chemist Jean-Baptiste François, but his most famous patent (1844) was the muselet – a wire “muzzle” still used today to hold the corks of champagne and sparkling wine in place. In these early days the capsule de muselets were just made out of plain discs of metal but, as things progressed, growers began imprinting their “house” mark for promotional purposes. Today, there are unlimited amounts of imprints and themes, from famous people to wildlife to astral constellations!
The wooden boards are available (in France) in a variety or different shapes – a map of France, Champagne bottle, grape bunches etc – with indentations for 20, 30, 50 and more capsules. I went for the square wooden board with (no messing around here!) 150 slots – thus ensuring, of course, that I will have to keep drinking fine champagne or sparkling wine until I fill the board up. Currently, I have 21 to go but I’ve also included several blank coloured tops which aren’t particularly interesting so, as I gain more capsules, these will be relegated from the main board. Hmmm, unless, of course, I get another board……