World Champagne Day 201817 October 2018
Whether it’s your preferred regular tipple, or something you save for special occasions, drinking Champagne has long been synonymous with style.
To celebrate World Champagne Day on 19 October we are sharing with you, the story behind how Champagne has managed to keep its sparkle over all these years.
The UK is still the world’s second largest consumer of Champagne, behind only the French, buying around 27 million bottles each year.
Celebrated local wines have been produced in the Champagne region for over a thousand years, but the drink we now know and love didn’t officially gain its fizz until the 1700s.
The effect, accidentally caused when low temperatures in the region’s cold winters saw the fermentation process prematurely halted, before beginning again in warmer weather building pressure from carbon dioxide, was replicated intentionally, as the popularity of sparkling champagne grew.
Already the talk of London society, following the arrival of influential epicurean Charles de Saint-Évremond in 1661, it is thought the English were some of the first to see added bubbles as a desirable trait.
Trace back the UK’s love affair with champagne and you’ll find much of the credit goes to one special lady, Queen Victoria. Having discovered her love of the Perrier-Jouët drier style “brut” Champagne, she insisted on it being served at all her banquets at venues including Blenheim Palace from 1856, with society’s movers and shakers all scrabbling to follow suit.
Having been appointed the Royal Warrant as caterers towards the end of the 1800s, Searcys made note of the elegant new to serving Champagne when entertaining, in the introduction to their 1896 catalogue:
“With the advance of the Nation’s prosperity and culture, entertaining has not only become more general, but almost one of the necessities of social life.”
While the popularity of Champagne continued to rise throughout the early 20th Century, devastation caused by both World Wars saw vineyards close and production slow.
Churchill’s love of Champagne
“Champagne should be dry, cold, and free” – Winston Churchill
Churchill loved champagne. He was fond of saying that a glass lifts the spirits and sharpens the wits – but “a bottle produces the opposite effects.” Pol Roger was famously his favourite Champagne house, however Perrier-Jouet has also discovered the records leading them to believe that their champagne was served at Churchill’s wedding. It had been his choice from the 1920s. Indeed when he attended a lunch at the British Embassy in Paris in November 1944, after its liberation by the Allies, he and Odette Pol Roger became friends for the rest of his life.
Things begin to change in the world of tradtional Champagne. The late 90s sees Nyetimber release their 1993 Classic Cuvée, the first English Sparkling Wine using a true champagne blend. It was brilliantly received, proving not only that English Sparkling Wines could be good, but that they could be great, with many blind tastings favouring Nytember.
Searcys opens the world’s longest champagne bar in London’s iconic St Pancras Station. Taking centre stage in the historic station’s wonderful Art Deco surrounds, the drinks menu features the most renowned and respected houses in Champagne.
Champagne house Taittinger announce they have acquired Kent farmland, with the aim of producing a top quality English sparkling wine. It is the only Grande Marque Champagne House to be run by its eponymous family and is the first Grande Marque Champagne to establish a vineyard in the UK.
The wine, called Domaine Evremond, is named after Charles de Saint-Évremond, the French writer who is credited with helping introduce 17th-century London to the habit of quaffing champagne. It is due to be released for drinking in 2023, after three years of ageing in bottle.
The UK’s first Champagne School is launched by Searcys in London, under the management of Searcys champagne ambassador Joel Claustre. The Champagne School is a ground-breaking platform to showcase small English sparkling wine producers as well as the established big Champagne houses.