Sparkling wines, in many western minds, seem to be inextricable from the celebratory setting. I think this goes beyond precedents and traditions set by tales of debauchery at the widow’s estate. There is something about the effusive nature of bubbly that is visceral in ways that go beyond what is acceptable in polite company.
But I am not polite company.
I guess the American wine consumer of all ranks is having trouble extricating their definition of sparkling wine from rap videos and NASCAR winner’s circles. But it’s not uniquely American to think of sparklers as celebratory.
This singular association with one style of wine which transcends borders and cultures begs deeper drilling.
Whether we want to admit it, sparkling wine is symbolic of sex. How often do women squeal and men whoop at the sound of a popping cork? Something about the surge of foamy liquid seems to lend itself to be described in Whitmanian terms (à la “Song of Myself“, end of Verse 24):
“Something I cannot see puts upward libidinous prongs, Seas of bright juice suffuse heaven.“
I may be taking a male-centric approach here, but sparkling wine screams decadence, visceral sexuality at times. It does not seem to invoke the restrained and aloof elegance of still wines. Yes, while descriptions of still wines have been painted with a pheromone-dipped brush many times, sparkling wine has never needed that. The industry does not seem to mind this.
But in stereotypical Victorian fashion, we have subverted the eroticism of sparkling wines by making them a celebratory object, a celebratory accessory. In the process, we have deprived ourselves of a great culinary experience. No matter how you drink it; what you drink it off of, out of or with, well-made sparkling wine is incredible food wine (unless it’s made to resemble 7-Up).
I wish I could be a fly on the wall at the coming Sparkling Wine Symposium taking place in England this week (a very pointed location choice for the inaugural event). In particular, I would like to hear Sarah Mowl’s presentation “Consumer insight: consumer research into attitudes to sparkling wine”, and the ensuing discussion. Sparklers may enjoy a good following but many a venture has fallen flat in past years because the public does not seem to see sparkling wines as a food companion – at least not as much as they do still wines.
I’m relying on Jamie Goode’s reporting from the event. Jamie helped organize the symposium and deserves kudos for his work.
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