10 things you probably didn't know about champagne

Callan Boys
new year's resolutions picture

jan, cork, champagne cork, month   GENERIC
new year's resolutions picture jan, cork, champagne cork, month GENERIC 

Sabre or corkscrew? Pommery or Pol Roger? Magnum or methuselah? No matter how you like champers served there's a good chance you'll be drinking some bubbles to ring in the New Year. Here's a some trivia to accompany your Taittinger.  

1. The wire cage at the top of bottle keeping enthusiastic corks at bay is called a muselet (pronounced 'mew-zeh-lay'). It's believed to have been invented in 1844 by a French bloke named Adolphe Jacquesson in an effort to cut down on eye-patch costs for staff working in the cellar of his champagne house. More often than not it will take six turns to loosen the muselet, no matter what champagne house or vintage.

2. Winston Churchill once said the four essentials of life were "hot baths, cold champagne, new peas, and old brandy." The British Bulldog had a glass of Pol Roger poured for him everyday at 11am and according to 1411 Facts to Knock You Sideways from BBC smug-fest QI, the wartime prime-minister drank 42,000 bottles of champers in his lifetime.

3. You can't win a Formula 1 race and not spray a sea of Grand Prix fans with champagne. The tradition started when driver Dan Gurney won the 1967 Le Mans endurance race and in his excitement shook a magnum of Moet over everyone in his vicinity. Until then winning drivers would take a dignified sip from the bottle and everyone would go home dry and only half-drunk.

4. But what happens at the Grand Prix in an Islamic country like Bahrain where alcohol consumption is banned in public? Instead of champagne on the podium it's waard (pronounced 'vard'), a fizzy cordial of rosewater and pomegranate. Additionally, in the '80s when the Williams racing team was sponsored by a Saudi Arabian company who were not down with boozing, Australian driver Alan Jones would anoint the crowd with orange juice instead.

Top tipple trivia: That metal cage is a muselet, OK?
Top tipple trivia: That metal cage is a muselet, OK? 

5. According to 101 Crazy Ways to Die by Matt Roper you are more likely to be killed by a freshly-popped champagne cork than a poisonous spider. Remember that at weddings where it's alleged a third of all cork fatalities take place.

6. An article published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry B in 2014 titled "How Many Bubbles in Your Glass of Bubbly?" reports that "One million bubbles seems to be a reasonable approximation for the whole number of bubbles likely to form if you resist drinking champagne from your flute". The French scientist behind the research also notes that want more fizz in your flute, serve the sparking a little warmer than usual and tilt the glass when pouring.

7. Speaking of bubbles, if you want to watch the most mesmerising thing since super slow-motion tennis replays, drop a raisin in a glass of champagne (probably not the Bollinger though). The shrivelled little grape will sink to the bottom then rise to the top. Then sink again. Then rise. Then sink. A bit like Mel Gibson's career. The reason for this Laurent-Perrier lava-lamp is because the wrinkles in a raisin give it a larger surface area for bubbles to stick to. When enough bubbles have claimed raisin real estate at bottom of the glass, they put on a stage play of Up and float their new house away. The bubbles evaporate when they reach the surface, the raisin sinks, and the process starts again.

Daniel Ricciardo at the Belgian Grand Prix 2014.
Daniel Ricciardo at the Belgian Grand Prix 2014. 

8. In the James Bond films, 007 has consumed champagne over 60 times, more than any other booze (although in the novels it's bourbon that Bond drinks with the most frequent joie de vivre). In 1962's Dr No, the title villain tells a perturbed Bond over dinner "That's a Dom Perignon '55. It would be a pity to break it." Bond replies that he prefers the '53.

9. A champagne bottle is made from thicker glass than other plonk vessels so it can withstand the pressure created by the champers as it carbonates during the second fermentation process. An unopened bottle of champagne contains about three times the pressure of a car tyre.

10. We drink champagne on New Year's Eve because it wasn't always as affordable as it is today (not that it's too cheap anyway). When the non-noble, newly-rich merchant class came along in the 19th century, European wine merchants started hawking the sparkling stuff to them in addition to their royal regulars. The new-rich could only afford champagne every now and again so it was saved for special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries and New Year's Eve. We also drink it because it's bloody great stuff.