The world is full of lies, and it’s hard to get through life without taking a few on board. Luckily, we’re here to sort the fact from the fiction, and find the plankton of truth in the ocean of bullshit. This week: Champagne! Why do race car drivers throw it everywhere? What’s the connection with 300-year-old French titties? Let’s pop open the magnum of truth with these Champagne myths, facts and trivia.
Lie #1: Formula 1 Drivers Spray Champagne Everywhere When They Win
The only interesting thing in Formula 1, the dullest sport on the planet, is the bit when the winners pop open a magnum of Champagne and spray it everywhere. It supposedly began by accident in 1966 when a bottle that had been sitting in the sun was opened by 24 Hours of Le Mans victor Jo Siffert and went everywhere, and became a trend the next year when Californian Dan Gurney deliberately sprayed the crowd after noticing a few people who’d been badmouthing him loitering nearby.
But it doesn’t always happen. If you win the Grand Prix in Bahrain, for instance, where drinking alcohol in public is illegal, you’ll spray a non-alcoholic sparkling pomegranate-flavored alternative called Warrd. And wherever you are, if a driver has died or been seriously injured during the race, the ceremony will be much more subdued and less dick-swingy.
Formula 1: It sure is boring!
Lie #2: Champagne Flutes Are Modelled After Marie Antoinette’s Titties
No they aren’t. Firstly, the glass said to be based on the guillotined queen’s tatootays isn’t the Champagne flute but the coupe, a wider, shallower glass more like a rounded martini one. A bit more tit-shaped, in fact. The coupe fell out of favor in the 1920s, as a narrower flute does more to maintain the carbonation and contain the aroma of the drink.
Secondly, no knockers were involved in the design of the glass, which had a lot more to do with advances in fortified glass, leading to narrower stems and wider bowls. Well, probably not, anyway — whether or not the 17th-century glassblowers who came up with it were boob guys has sadly been lost to history. The glass was developed 50 years before Marie Antoinette was born, though, so any honkers that were involved weren’t hers.
Lie #3: “You’ve Got Champagne Problems”
The expression “champagne problems” refers, of course, to issues affecting only the very fortunate. It’s a catchy phrase, used both by self-aware millionaires to describe their turmoil and also in a dismissive fuck-these-assholes way by people keen to not give a shit about rich people’s troubles.
But isn’t dismissing anyone’s problems at least kind of shitty? Sure, if someone is complaining about the admin involved in transferring the money from their blood diamond mine in Sierra Leone to their Swiss bank account, it’s hard to find too much sympathy for them, but stress is stress. Waving away someone’s problems because they have more money than you seems willfully lacking in empathy.
If you’re reading this, you’ve got access to electricity. You probably also have access to clean water and a roof over your head. You’re doing better than a lot of people in the world — if you have assets worth more than four grand you’re in the richest 50 percent — but you’ve still probably got non-optimal stuff going on. If you’re having a bad time, and someone goes, “How dare you complain about anything when you have it this good?,” that’s not very nice. Like, if you get dumped, you’re allowed to feel sad about it even though you have a lot more material goods than, say, a penniless farmer hoping for a loan to buy a cow.
We’re fairly complicated, us people, and we’re capable of caring about things at different scales. You can be angry about systemic inequality and angry that you have diarrhea, just as you can be wealthy and have an imperfect life. If you got a large raise, would everything stop being difficult? Did The Notorious B.I.G. teach us nothing?
However, if you were faking agony at listening to Salt-N-Pepa while traveling from Illinois’ 10th most populous city to France’s most famous sparkling wine region via a 25-person town in the Yukon, and finding the whole thing difficult, you’d have Champaign–Champagne–Champagne sham Champagne pain problems. And that would be quite something!
Lie #4: “Er, It’s Mo-Ay”
Moët & Chandon is one of the most famous Champagne companies in the world, and it’s constantly pronounced wrong. Saying “Mo-ay” feels like it makes sense — generally, in French, a T at the end of a word goes unpronounced, as in petit — but isn’t right. While founder Claude Moët was French, his surname was Dutch, meaning it’s correctly pronounced as almost one syllable – “M’wet.”
Lie #5: “It’s Just, Like, Sparkling Wine, You Know?”
Yeah, it is, in the same way everything’s just something. All value is subjective, societally assigned rather than absolute. Champagne is expensive in part because it’s Champagne, a drink with a huge amount of cultural baggage and cachet. While wine experts could talk for ages about idiosyncrasies in the soil lending the flavor this or that, to the majority of drinkers, Champagne will taste basically the same — and get you just as good’n’drunk — as a different sparkling wine a fraction of the price.
But nothing’s drunk in a vacuum (as in, a cultural vacuum — you can drink from a Roomba). The pageantry, branding and symbolism surrounding drinks are all powerful things, and unless you’re in a sample group for a marketing experiment, it’s basically impossible to remove the substance itself from the colossal cultural profile it has.
So, while yes, it is just sparkling wine, and other than to oenophiles not that different to the cheaper stuff, saying that is the same as looking at a diamond and going, “It’s just a rock.”
It is, but it isn’t. Everything’s just something. Nothing’s really anything. Life is meaningless. Drink up.