Champagne : the great writers’ guest of honour

Nov 30, 2020 • 3 mins

With its golden hue, sparkling bubbles and the loud popping of its cork, champagne always makes a poem sparkle and a novel fizz!

Whether Maupassant, Colette, Houellebecq or Hemingway, this wine has always been the darling of the great writers. Precious champagne is hidden away in our libraries. Living or dead, the author never fails to serve us a glass of it between chapters.

The celebrations companion

In novels, champagne is almost a character in its own right. It is that dinner companion who creates the right mood.

Bubbly Amélie Nothomb includes it in Bluebeard where it is present at each meal shared between the main characters, who raise a glass to the same cause: the colour gold.

Where would a celebration be without our dear friend? When the characters want to celebrate their success, it’s the champagne they reach for.

Albert Cohen is well aware of this: in Her Lover, Adrien Deume is delighted with his promotion to Manager A: "Hugs! Granny’s tears! Champagne!"

It is only natural that the great wine appears in the best-seller Hunting and gathering by the sparkling Anna Gavalda. When her main characters celebrate the New Year: "the boss wished them a happy new year and served them all a glass of champagne". Wine of kings, yes! But king of our celebrations too!

The accomplice to the perfect crime

Champagne is the friend that puts you at your ease. It helps when you want to confess your dark secrets like the characters’ confessions in "Nightmares and Dreamscapes" by the great Stephen King.

Its bubbles slowly die after simmering away in a bottle that seemed rather calm before it was opened... A bit like the perfect crime. Champagne is an excellent accomplice. In Sparkling Cyanide, the captivating Agatha Christie puts it at the centre of a diabolical plot, in which cyanide lies hidden inside its lovely bottle...

In Maurice Leblanc's The Crystal Stopper, our intrepid Arsène Lupin unmasks a criminal who is blackmailing a woman and has hidden an incriminating item in a crystal stopper: "Let's see... what does she like best? Sweet champagne? Dry champagne? Extra-dry?" Unfortunately, he pushes the cork a little too far...

The muse of love and desire

The “wine of love” is an unrivalled seducer, a must-have for the perfect date, and writers have clearly understood this. Champagne is a cupid: it amuses the bride and groom, it reconciles couples, it attracts lovers...

"You let yourself get drunk.

The sap is champagne and goes straight to your head...

You are wandering; you feel a kiss on your lips

which quivers there like something small and alive...”

Love and champagne, Arthur Rimbaud knows that when you are seventeen you aren’t really serious...

Sparkling wine is poetic and nefarious, from Voltaire's Man of the world to Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby: "Men and girls came and went like moths, among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars". In fact, Leonardo Di Caprio appears with a glass of champagne in his hand several times in the movie.

A veritable writers’ muse, it adds fizz to the plots and usually plays the role of a desirable guest. Katherine Pancol mentions it no less than 30 times in The Slow Waltz of Turtles! This intoxicating word will always attract. Let's leave the author of Treasure Island, R.L. Stevenson, to sum it up aptly: “Champagne is bottled poetry".

Admiration for this wine has transcended time and it still never gets old. Like its bubbles, immortal yet ephemeral, champagne always bubbles through to the surface of any good book!

Article written as part of an educational project of the Wine Journalism University Diploma of the Georges Chappaz Institute - University of Reims