Happy 2021!, and cheers to a year that should (I said should) be less chaotic than 2020 and bring us hope over the fears and losses that came from the pandemic. It’s time to celebrate what we have achieved and what we are looking forward to do.
And what’s better than to mark a new year than popping some Champagne? Toasting and drinking the world’s finest sparkling wine (or other bubblies) is established as a big tradition worldwide, no matter where.
But many of you wonder: why do we drink Champagne on New Year’s Eve?
Let’s get into it.
The reasons why we celebrate the New Year over Champagne
Long story short? Because it comes from noble traditions of big, luxurious celebrations that became popular to a point of major top-down appreciation over the past centuries.
A few data compiled throughout last decade have showed that about 25 percent of all Champagne is sold between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. No secret: the bubblies are part of celebrating the yearly transition.
But it wasn’t always that case of deliberately popping the cork out…
It starts with the very history of Champagne wines, which precedes bubbles and which we’re not going deep into for now, but that cements the status of the French region as the crème de la crème of French winemaking.
From the times of iconic Frankish king Clovis, who was baptized in Reims (in the heart of Champagne), regal traditions and royal celebrations took place there for generations.
The region’s finest wines were already part of it all – much before the mastering of sparkling white wines by a 17th century Benedictine monk we all came to know due to a certain label: Dom Pérignon.
When Dom Pérignon finally made those delicate bubbly whites stop bursting their bottles because of untamed carbonation, the savory Champagne sparkling wines quickly turned favourites of the wealthy (read it, nobles) – to the point that King Louis XV decreed in 1728 that only wines from Champagne could be shipped in bottles, cementing the success of these new wines.
Noble habits turned popular
By the 18th century, Champagne was widely loved among the most exclusive drinkers before the French Revolution, and it kept going strong. From the post-revolutionary Congress of Vienna then to widespread use in the celebration of weddings, treaties, diplomatic meetings… and the then well-established tradition of past-midnight parties for the New Year.
As time went by and the fame of Champagne only grew as the nobility slowly gave way to the new bourgeoisie, the upper classes increasingly emulated some noble habits.
Slowly, the reputation of the bubblies – and their variants – spread top-down to middle and working classes for different kinds of special occasions, including New Year’s Eve.
Of course, such changes in habits paved the way for advertising Champagne as a wine meant for celebrations.
“Newspaper advertisements, particularly around holidays like Christmas and New Year associated family gatherings with Champagne”, author Kolleen Guy wrote in the book When Champagne Became French.
The French bubbly fame was helped by the local protection that grants exclusive use of its name, but it does capture the hearts and minds of who hasn’t even tasted any among Moët & Chandon, Dom Pérignon, Veuve Clicquot, Boërl & Kroff, Bollinger, Cristal, Brignac and other wonderful state-of-the-art Champagne.
Nowadays, the visual effect of popping the cork of bubblies, such as in car races and big celebrations, has become much more relevant – but well, for fancy Champagne, certainly not the recommended practice.
There are also other very good sparklings that would do the job! Crémants, metodo classico, cava, prosecco are just a few…
2020 has been such a challenging year, but that doesn’t mean we should let go of great traditions.
Put your bottles to chill (and drink at a good cold temperature) and be ready to toast in safety – in the case of gatherings with your dear ones.
After all, centuries-old traditions die hard, and we oenophiles are surely not willing to get rid of this wonderful one.
Happy New Year from me – Breno -, and from everyone at Alti Wine Exchange. May we all have the best times of our lives soon!