Remember, gentlemen, it's not just France we are fighting for, it's Champagne!
In the profound words of the great leader, Napoleon Bonaparte, any occasion, be it happy or otherwise, calls for a sip of the ubiquitous bubbly. But indeed, he was French.
Not meaning to dispute his thoughts on the matter, there is quite a sizable population among us earthlings, who feel that champagne, as a celebration must-have, is slightly overrated.
And yet, it invariably pops up (apologies for the unapologetic pun) at the very mention of happiness and celebration, as if it truly belongs there. But does it?
Exploring the Association of Champagne With Celebrations
To begin with, let us get a few technicalities out of the way. When we say champagne, it is to refer exclusively to the sparkling wine made from grapes sourced from the Champagne region of France.
Otherwise, it would only classify as 'sparkling wine'. This rule is followed in several countries in order to adhere to the rules of appellation that classify all wines produced in France.
But there are also other versions, stating that the bubbly was actually invented earlier by the Benedictine Monks way back in 1531. In its initial days, champagne was tagged as le vin du diable, or 'the devil's wine', owing to its propensity to 'explode' from the bottles, with corks blasting due to the pressure.
Its sparkling, golden-hued look, combined with its effervescent taste, took champagne to the heady heights of popularity throughout the European continent.
Enter Mr. Claude Moët
Claude Moët, the legendary vintner was the one who pioneered the art of making sparkling wine in the region of Champagne. He was the founder of the company which became Moet & Chandon. Apart from being a vintner of significant repute, Mr. Moet's stronghold was marketing as well.
Through his ingenious skills, he began to popularize his pet creation among the movers and shakers in Versailles, and became one of the few privileged who supplied wine to the royal court.
His champagne found several fans here - one being the Marquise de Pompadour, mistress of King Louis XIV of France, who apparently dished out some sound advice on improvising the quality of her favorite drink.
After the demise of Claude Moet, the company was inherited by his grandson, Jean-Remy Moet, whose name goes down in history as the person who brought international acclaim to France's favorite drink.
According to legend, it was Napoleon and his troops who invented the tradition of sobering open bottles of Moet to celebrate victory.
After the defeat of Napoleon, the invading Russians plundered the wine cellars in Champagne, with Moet suffering substantially. This apparent loss, however, would go on to transform the fortunes of the company, as the news of this delectable sparkling wine spread across the world. Jean-Remy Moët had just pulled off the marketing coup of his life.
Soon enough, eminent names like Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, Frederick William III of Prussia, William II of the Netherlands, Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor, and Tsar Alexander I of Russia were making a beeline to make purchases from the house of Moet & Chandon.
We first saw the spray of champagne after a sports victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans car race in 1966, when champion Jo Siffert showered his cheering fans with a bottle of Moet. The credit of creating the champagne pyramid, a regular at high profile dos around the world is also a Moet trademark.
Champagne and the Good Life
It was around the Industrial Revolution that the allure of champagne permeated throughout, cutting across class divides. Britishers, in particular, became so enamored with their sparkling wine, that the import restrictions during both World Wars left them enormously heartbroken.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, quite the connoisseur of fine wines, even had a bubbly named in his honor - Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill, from the house of Pol Roger. He had, quite famously, motivated the British troops to rescue France, and by extension, rescue Champagne from the clutches of the Germans.
Today, not everyone may be able to afford a bottle of Dom Pérignon, but our fascination with sparkling wines refuses to dim. Champagne or not, a bottle of bubbly always makes an appearance as the most fitting symbol of celebration.