Why Champagne is Connected to Wealth?
Champagne has long been associated with luxury. The fizzy drink has been seen as a go-to drink for celebrations; it has become the most popular drink by the rich, royals, and high-fliers. Undoubtedly champagne has become a premium drink in the contemporary world. How did this come about?
In the contemporary world, when one speaks of champagne, the feeling of luxury comes to mind. People think of special occasions, parties, and celebrations. The drink’s association with the rich dates back to the 5th century in Reims, Champagne, when the drink was used in coronation ceremonies.
France’s kings were coronated in Reims Cathedral, and it became a tradition to offer champagne during the coronation. Its popularity grew within Champagne, and soon, the magical drink was offered to royals touring the region. As you may have thought, the tradition did not stop in Champagne as it spread through France and Europe. Soon it became a fashionable drink in Europe’s courts.
Reims Cathedral by Martin Tod
Champagne’s association dates back to Clovis’ baptism on December 25, 508. Clovis was baptized at the request of his wife Clotilde, who has been lauded for the act. He was coronated at the Reims Cathedral and became the first king of France. His coronation was presided by saint Remo, coming from a nearby villa surrounded by vines. Clovis’ coronation set the link between champagne and royals and was adopted by other royalties across Europe and the world. Kings of France and other royals often left Reims with champagne casks, and its popularity soon grew.
Champagne wine region’s terroir added to the wine’s taste and finesse, distinguishing it from many other wines from France. The unique flavor and feeling associated with the drink led it to be chosen as the wine of choice for the French crown; this continued until red wines from Burgundy made a name for themselves due to their quality and were added to the crown’s drinks. Throughout history, champagne has ruled wines for ruling elites and royals in Europe.
An example is the British monarchy. For ages, Britain has been a major consumer of French wines. Its love for wine has been influenced by the two countries’ history of wars and trade. One fascinating point is, however, the documentation of sparkling wine in Britain.
Dom Perignon, a Benedictine monk, was credited with creating sparkling wine in 1697; however, the British first documented the drink. Christopher Merret, a British scientist and physician, was the first to document the production of sparkling wine on December 17, 1662. However, Perignon’s discovery led to the sustained production of sparkling wines.
Race horsing is the sport for the rich, and champagne is the wine of the kings! The preference extends to princes, princesses, queens, and other royalty members. Wars between France and Britain saw a rise in fondness for champagne.
Royals preferred champagne to other wines, which saw Burgundy’s finest wines compete for royal attention in the recent past. George V of England often served his guests with a ‘special bottle’ of Bollinger. Recently, Queen Elizabeth II has offered royals warrants to specific champagne-producing houses to supply the frizzly drink to the monarch.
Another example is the Russian Tsars, who preferred glasses of champagne on their tables despite wars and other conflicts with France. For instance, Tsar Alexander I could afford a glass of Veuve Clicquot shipped from Reims even with the embargo on French wines resulting from Napoleon’s invasion. In 1876, Tsar Alexander II requested wine from his favorite champagne house, Roederer, to make and deliver champagne in a clear bottle; even though this was not ideal for longevity, Roederer complied by supplying the Romanov with his wine.
Champagne became common in the House of Romanov until its deposition in 1917. Other royals in the 19th and the 20th centuries that embraced champagne as their go-to drink include King Leopold II of Belgium, Queen Victoria of England, and Napoleon III of France.
Today, champagne is paired with different foods and desserts. The drink has maintained a luxurious reputation and is the drink of choice for the rich. The popping sound made by the cork has become legendary and a symbol of happiness. High-rise events and celebrations are continually embracing champagne as their choice. The sound of bubbles excites happiness and contentment. Winemakers, having understood this need, try to imbue their wines with carbon II dioxide as much as possible. Despite these efforts, double fermentation rains king in champagne making.
This Day in Wine History
May 16, 1643 – Louis XIV ascended to power on this day. Louis XIV, born on September 5, 1638, became the King of France at age 4, ruling for 72 years. During his time, Louis XIV became the most notable brand ambassador for champagne. Under his doctor, Antoine d’Aquin’s advice, he drank champagne in all his meals for most of his life until a new doctor prescribed a Burgundy cure in his later years. Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King, was described as the king of wines. His house, the House of Bourbon, appreciated champagne. His great-grandson, Louis Duke of Anjou (Louis XV), loved champagne produced by Claude Moet. Moet founded the champagne house that later became Moet & Chandon.
December 17, 1662 – Christopher Merret submitted the recipe for making sparkling wine to the Royal Society in London on this day. The recipe involved adding sugars and molasses to dry ciders to induce second fermentation producing sparkling ciders. Many wine experts believe the French copied this process in creating their sparkling wines after visiting England. Besides, Merret has been credited with being the first person to use the term “sparkling wine.” The first documented mention of the term in France was in 1718. Merret contributed so much to the sparkling wine industry; he introduced coal in glass furnaces to make stringer glass that could withstand the sparkling nature of wine.
July 14, 1790 – The Fete de la Federation celebration was held on this day. The celebration was held in honor of the French revolution, a holiday that became the precursor of Bastille Day, celebrated every July 14 in France. The festival was held to celebrate the end of absolute monarchy as the constitutional monarchy replaced it. By this time, champagne wine had been established and was popular among the French citizens. It was served to toast the outcome of the revolution. Despite these changes, a period of turmoil followed until 1799, when Napoleon ascended to power.
Want to read more? Try these books!
-  Remy Melina, “Why Do We Celebrate with Champagne?” livescience.com, December 28, 2010, https://www.livescience.com/32829-why-celebrate-with-champagne.html.
-  Ella Alexander, “How Champagne Became the Go-to Drink of the Rich and Beautiful,” Harper’s BAZAAR, January 22, 2021, https://www.harpersbazaar.com/uk/culture/going-out/a35288086/history-of-champagne/.
-  Comite Champagne, “A Rare Wine,” Champagne.fr, 2022, https://www.champagne.fr/en/from-vine-to-wine/what-is-champagne-wine/history-of-champagne-wine/a-rare-wine#:~:text=From%20898%20onwards%2C%20all%20of.
-  Jenna, “Champagne- a Very British Love Affair,” Grape Escapes, September 16, 2016, https://grapeescapes.net/champagne-british-love-affair-2/.
-  Lauren Hubbard, “The Royal Family’s Favorite Wines and Spirits Brands,” Town & Country, August 14, 2021, https://www.townandcountrymag.com/society/tradition/g37244008/queen-elizabeth-royal-family-favorite-drinks-brands/.
-  Sophie McCabe, “France’s Louis XIV: Radical King Who Drank ‘Champagne as Medicine’ and Invented High Heels,” Express.co.uk, June 10, 2022, https://www.express.co.uk/news/royal/1623722/king-louis-xiv-france-monarchy-royal-family-spt.
-  National Day, “Fete de La Federation,” National Today, June 10, 2022, https://nationaltoday.com/fete-de-la-federation/.
- Futured image – Veuve Cilcquot by Dey Alexander