Champagne is one of the most famous wines, both in France, its country of origin, and throughout the world. The cultural impact of Champagne is considerable and, in many ways, more significant than that of numerous other wines. From its beginnings as a favored alcoholic beverage of the French ruling classes to its status among contemporary wine enthusiasts, Champagne has held notable stature throughout much of the history of its production and consumption.
The Initial Cultural Impact of Champagne
Champagne’s cultural reputation wasn’t particularly great at first. When it was first made, its natural carbonation was seen as accidental, and winemakers tried and largely failed to eliminate its signature bubbles.
Following the death of King Louis XIV, the wine began to become well-liked by French nobility and royalty, despite its previously disliked sparkling nature. Champagne’s cultural stature also increased by being exported to the British, who immediately appreciated the unique wine. Once the historically noted Champagne makers Dom Perignon and Veuve Clicquot perfected the processes that allowed the wine to be properly bottled after it was fully carbonated, the wine’s reputation continued to grow.
Further Advancement of Champagne’s Impact and Reputation
Throughout the 18th century, the production of Champagne was refined, reinvented and revamped in numerous ways. Most of the initial problems with Champagne production were dealt with during this time through various advances of viticulture, fermentation and bottling.
In 1908, the general region in which Champagne was grown, inside the province of Champagne-Ardenne, was legally declared an appellation–a designated area of culinary origin–under French law. The limits of the region were further defined in 1927. Since that time, no winery outside of this area that produces a sparkling white wine can call its product Champagne, even if the product in question were to be virtually identical to traditional Champagne.
This development, which led to Champagne being considered an exotic delicacy of sorts, launched Champagne’s reputation above many other wines in the world. Numerous other sparkling wines have been made since then, and marketed successfully, though none have come close to approaching the stature of classic Champagne.
Champagne in Popular Culture
In the United States and elsewhere in the world, Champagne is a common celebratory alcoholic beverage, saved for special occasions of all kinds. An excellent example is the virtually universal acceptance of wines from the top Champagne estates being used as the proper drink to celebrate the turning of the New Year at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve.