Is there a drink as specific in what it evokes than champagne? Is there a drink as timeless as champagne? And is there a drink that is as much about celebration and doing it in style than champagne? Here’s to champers and all of us who love it so…
As the festive season swirls around us, so more and more of us are reaching for a glass of champagne. Bubbly, sparkling wine, champers – call it what you will, champagne is invariably the go-to drink for us when there is something to celebrate – or just to merely make us feel more up. It makes it all better. Have your doubts about how champagne elevates any event into an elegant sense of occasion? Try this, then: place a flute of champagne into the hand of even the most macho, beer-swilling man’s paw, and – voilà! – that macho hand will suddenly look magically refined, the man somehow classier. That is the power of champagne.
Champagne is wine made unique. It’s the yeast and sugar that is added to wine that allow for a second fermentation and which then create the bubbles that make champagne. It is replete with stats and titbits that are as enthralling as the drink itself: Early producers of champagne had to wear helmets owing to exploding bottles in cellars, which is why it was also referred to as ‘Devil’s Wine’. There are an estimated one billion bottles of bubbly in storage all over the world – that’s a lot of merrymaking to be had! Impress (or not) your friends by popping a raisin into a glass of champagne and watch the raisin rise up and fall down and up again in a continuous cycle. And for true decadence you can always bathe in the stuff. It is estimated that an average tub will need up to 350 bottles to fill it. Marilyn Monroe did it. It’s even contended that the fantasy of bathing in champagne is what led to bubble baths. It sounds so true, even if not.
Yet there is a tendency to make champagne somehow too special, an almost ‘precious’ thing to be enjoyed only at select times in our lives. It’s as if the champagne has to be super special because the occasion has to be super special too. That’s nonsense. Some of the most satisfying champagnes I’ve had were inexpensive Italian spumante and delightful, unpretentious sparkling wines from places like South Africa and Chile. And who the hell needs an excuse to drink champagne anyway? I know I don’t, which is why I’m completely d’accord with Coco Chanel when she said, “I only drink champagne on two occasions: When I am in love and when I am not”. Aahhh, Coco, how true.
Yes, there are those that prefer a good whisky. There are those that may prefer another spirit or even a cocktail instead. And of course there are those who simply prefer a good ol’ beer. Fair enough – and bully to all of you with those preferences, I say. But I defy anyone to argue that there is a drink as associated with celebrations, being merry and just living it up than champagne. The golden elixir that fizzes and sparkles transcends any occasion, great or small, and makes it wonderful. I’d like to see whisky or rum or beer or any drink for that matter beat that. Fat chance.
Winston Churchill was said to love champagne so much that the Pol Roger Champagne house made a special pint bottle of their champagne just for Churchill that was to be served to him each day at 11 am. I know that I admire him for being able to make each day that bit more special with his very own champagne. So, when you’re eating, drinking and being merry try to make champagne your tipple of choice. You’ll be glad you did. Hell, take the glass anyway, even if you don’t like the stuff.