New Year’s Eve may have come and gone, but it’s no excuse not to continue to celebrate with Champagne. With Valentine’s Day on 14 February and Chinese New Year on 16 February this year, it definitely puts us in the mood to celebrate with this bubbly. It makes it so apt to delve into the interesting facts behind champagne in this month of February, starting with how did this bubbly become such a symbol and must for celebratory events?
As you may or may not know the word ‘Champagne’ can’t be used loosely for any bubblies. For any bottle of sparkling wine to be labeled Champagne, it has to be made in Champagne, France and produced using only Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.
It seems that drinking champagne dates as far back to the late 5th century, starting with Roman King Clovis, known as the King of the Franks as he’s the first king to have united all the Frankish Tribes. When he decided to get crowned and baptised in Reims as a Catholic, the bishop – Saint Remi baptised the king used local Champagne wine during the ceremony, giving the wine a certain holy significance. Interestingly, for the next 15 centuries, it became a tradition where every French king until the Revolution followed in King Clovis footsteps to get crowned in Reims, and of course Champagne was always served.
It’s only natural that Champagne became a status symbol, given that it originated from the royal courts. At that time, this expensive drink was often seen in the upper echelons of society among aristocrats and parties of the royal courts.
When the French and Industrial revolution came, it really helped to elevate even more the profile of Champagne. After the French Revolution, nobles who fled France cheered with drinking champagne. The Industrial revolution, which saw the advent of railways made it much easier to transport champagne, coupled with the creation of stronger glass bottles for transportation, which became more accessible to people beyond the Champagne region.
Over the years, champagne has been used to celebrate so many key events and moments in life. The British has used Champagne to launch some of the world’s greatest ships. Champagne has also been an integral part of sports celebration since Fred Chandon started offering their champagne to the winners of French Formula 1 Grand Prix events on the famous Reims circuit in the heart of Champagne back in the 30’s. The tradition of spraying a bottle of champagne from the winner’s podium after a race didn’t start until 1967 when Dan Gurney and A. J. Foyt won the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Ford GT40. Gurney, not a drinker, was handed the victors’ bottle of Moët et Chandon and spontaneously shook the bottle and sprayed it on everyone in his vicinity. No surprise, the spraying of Champagne has become a tradition on every motor-racing podium for its symbolism.
So there you have it – the history of celebrating champagne started with a French King and is now used to celebrate victory, important moments in life, New Year’s Eve, birthdays and the list goes on, by people from all walks of life, race and religion. So don’t forget to celebrate with Champagne all the more this month!