The History of Champagne
A certain je nais se quois surrounds champagne, infusing the beverage with classiness and decorum. Champagne has long since become synonymous with fine dining, the restaurant segment that’s suffering the most during the pandemic crisis. Fine dining establishments sell you on an immersive experience, from the food to the interior design and champagne has long played a part in elevating that atmosphere. The history of champagne reveals how this tradition came into existence, how it has evolved over time and where fine dining might go tomorrow.
What is Champagne?
Before we get too far down the rabbit hole, we need to define what champagne is. As the relationship between bourbon and whisky, champagne is defined by specific ingredients from a particular place, which sets it apart from sparkling wine, or, more specifically, a prosecco. Officially, champagne is the product of a specific region in France that produces the right type of grapes, and that has the right soil. Additionally, champagne requires a unique method to create that prescribes how the bottle is situated during carbonation, and more. Keep those details in mind when you consider champagne’s cost, which is a luxury item created under very particular circumstances.
Why is Champagne Special?
The history of champagne is as rich as the drink itself. It’s easy to surmise that champagne is held in such high esteem exclusively because of its scarcity, but that’s only part of the story. On Christmas day in 496 AD, champagne was used as part of the eucharist during a royal baptism. Since then, champagne was associated with the aristocracy, the drink of choice during coronations, weddings, and other special occasions. Champagne developed a reputation as something to covet between its regal and religious connotations, making it the drink of celebrations from weddings to christenings.
Champagne in Pop Culture
Champagne’s enduring popularity and status are at least partially attributable to the reverence the beverage receives in various media. Appearing across literature, cinema, and beyond, champagne is almost exclusively presented as a high-status prize and symbol of affluence. Throughout the Ian Fleming novels and over 26 films, James Bond is seen enjoying champagne as an indicator of his prestige. That relationship is such that Bollinger released a Bond-specific, 2007 vintage last year.
As with spy novels, champagne is an opulent luxury with a long tradition of appearing in hip-hop or lavish rock and roll videos, a sign of success and celebration for the musicians involved. Through these relationships, champagne has remained in the zeitgeist for centuries, which promises a bright future yet to come.
The State of Fine Dining
Our history of champagne ends in the present, as the libation has become part and parcel to fine dining restaurants. The relationship between fine dining and champagne is parallel, both unique experiences for memorable moments. Unfortunately, fine dining has faced extraordinary challenges throughout the pandemic. Can fine dining endure? And if so, will it remain connected to the champagne wishes and caviar dreams of before?
Common Champagne Drinks
No matter your segment, alcohol sales have the potential to increase your revenue dramatically. Before we delve too deep into the future, let’s examine the most common champagne drinks, items that might pair well with the uptick in legalized alcohol delivery. Below are some of the most common champagne drinks and a list of their recommended pairings.
- Mimosa – Perhaps the most accessible drink on this menu, Mimosas are a blend of orange juice and champagne, often associated with breakfast or brunch.
- Champagne Cocktail – Consisting of champagne and a sugar cube, the Champagne Cocktail has the most direct name of all, ideal as an accompaniment to lite afternoon appetizers.
- Air Mail – Featuring golden rum, lime juice, honey, and brut champagne, the Air Mail goes a long way to enliven Latinx-inspired dishes.
- Black Velvet – The heartiest drink of the bunch, a Black Velvet, is made by combining a Guinness beer and champagne, which pairs well with heavier fare like a lamb burger on a crisp evening.
- French 75 – Containing gin, lemon juice, and sugar topped off with champagne, a French 75 is ideal for a dinner serving of steak frite, perhaps during a date lit by candlelight.
- Fancy Bourbon Punch – While not reserved for a season, Fancy Bourbon Punch is a fantastic spring treat, composed of bourbon, sugar, citrus fruits (lemons and oranges), strong tea, and champagne. This is a wonderful thing to drink on a bright, Autumn day, and pairs well with fish.
The Future of Fine Dining
While the history of champagne tells us that it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, fine dining establishments are struggling. Although the two are not mutually exclusive, as evidenced above, they have a long and storied tradition together. It’s a logical relationship that celebrates the finer, often critical moments in life, like a wedding or a job promotion. Unfortunately, capacity limits and a difficult economic downturn have created many obstacles for fine dining operators. Fine dining and champagne alike hinge on the experience, the time, and the place.
Fortunately, some enterprising restaurateurs are transitioning to off-premise, moving the experience from in-house to your house. With alcohol delivery a possibility for many, fine dining owners and operators can prepare packaged opportunities. These options cater to guests hungry to celebrate, but with concerns for safety. Using crowlers and growlers, delivering alcohol is easier now than ever before, and there are plenty of options out there as to how you do so.
Elsewhere, some restaurateurs have looked too small, privately curated eventsto endure limits to capacity. In doing so, they can continue to provide the experience that is so critical to fine dining success.
If the history of champagne teaches us anything, it’s that some things are worth coveting, no matter the situation. Again, champagne’s future is certain and will continue to grace the lips of those commemorating the best of times in fine dining establishments (and beyond) around the world. There’s already evidence that fine dining can bounce back in places where the pandemic is under control, a positive sign for the future. A search for champagne and fine dining yields enthusiasm for both, whether from travelers out for adventure or a delightful evening. Perseverance will pay off in the future for restaurateurs able to navigate the difficult tasks ahead.
How has the pandemic altered your course? Click the link below for our page containing helpful restaurant resources for the COVID-19 outbreak.
About the Author
Syd is a content marketing specialist, which are fancy words for writing pretty to tell a good story. He likes writing things about food, drinks, and music. He’s a musician himself, a father of two, and loves his wife a whole lot. At home, like the rest of the world right now, he’s finding time to play with the kids and create art.