At Christmas-time and New Year we drink more of it than ever and it seems perfectly acceptable to be cracking open bottles of bubbly before noon or anytime you have guests round. It’s also the perfect gift to bring round, a ribbon tied round the iconic bottle. Bubbly is a great aperitif, can finish off a meal, be paired with liqueurs or drank on its own. Those bubbles can go straight to ones head…and what starts as giddiness…quickly moves into tipsiness…which is sure to end in headache if one too many glasses are enjoyed.
In the word’s of Charles Dickens “Champagne is simply one of the elegant extras of life.”
We have the Romans to thank for planting vineyards in the Champagne region of France.
The roots of champagne being linked to big celebrations were when the first King of France, the warrior, Clovis was baptised and crowned in Reims Cathedral on Christmas day 496 AD and with Reims being in the province of Champagne it flowed freely to celebrate the coronation and from 898 onwards, all French kings were crowned in Reims.
With their botanical gardens at hand and the focus and time to dedicate towards their efforts we have monks to thank for many world renowned gastric delights. These include cheeses, confectionaries, cordials and champagnes. For example Dom Perignon, one of the most famous champagne in the world, was started in the 17th century by monks.
Marquis de Saint-Évremond brought and elevated champagne to London society whilst he was exiled there in 1661. Bubbles and champagne are synonymous now but it was after became popular in London that the bubbles would eventually become fixed. Up to then, the bubbles had sometimes appeared… and were more likely to appear in bottles that had been shipped to England and had had the fermentation process halted and started with changes in temperature which led to left over sugars which caused carbon dioxide gas to build and would cause the wine to bubble once opened.
Once it was established how to ensure the bubbles in each and every bottle champagne really took off in popularity in the 18th c. and with the help and power of French champagne houses still familiar to us today such as Moët & Chandon, Louis Roederer, Piper-Heidsieck and Taittinger they established a product that would symbolise luxury, style and celebration throughout the world with the help of the Parisian artistic, creative and literary elite who were lapping up champagne and depicting it in their works and lifestyles.
In the 20th c. the champagne houses took these fashionable associations and created marketing campaigns that revived drinking champagne as a must have for all celebrations, with a focus on Christmas and New Years Eve.
Champagne is obviously protected as an item produced only in Champagne but there are other 'bubbly alternatives at generally a lower price point such as Cava from Spain, Prosecco from Italy and sparkling wine from anywhere. Generally champagne is often described as yeasty and sweet with biscuit or brioche notes whole Cava can have earther tones and prosecco has descriptors of sweet and crisp.
Prosecco is now taking over the bubbly game with everyone wanting to get in on sharing bottles with each other on nights out, get togethers, parties, pubs and certainly at Christmas and New Years. Prosecco is cheaper than champagne, more fashionable than cava and on the path to continue it’s rise in sales an popularity.
This is the last episode of this first series of the Smy Goodness Podcast which will be back for a second series in March. In the meantime you can follow me on Instagram, Twitter or my website smygoodness.com. Happy New Year and thanks for listening.
A few years back I decided to bundle all my interests together and rebrand from Smy Chutney to Smy Goodness so that all my preserves, crafts, products and workshops could live together in one place. My own podcast seemed a suitable place to uncover, understand and enjoy things related to food, art, history and design. Please do share your stories, knowledge, questions and suggestions. In the Smy Goodness.com podcast section you will find the podcasts and all the items that we are discussing and will have ongoing discussions about each week.
You can also follow Smy Goodness on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. I'd like to thank Ashley Palmer for use of his Roland R-09 and Matteo Borea for creating the music. Thank you for listening.