Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Drinking Champagne Will Never Lose Its Fizz

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Drinking Champagne Will Never Lose Its Fizz

Article excerpt

Byline: Andrew Neather

IT WAS a performance to chill the heart of any Tory spin doctor. Boris Johnson, Mayor of the world's most international city, calling for an EU referendum to stick it to Johnny Foreigner? Don't be silly. George Osborne promising to make us work a year longer before retirement? Of course not. The incident that put the Tory spin machine in full-scale rebuttal mode was David Cameron enjoying a glass of champagne.

How very silly. Don't get me wrong: I find the sight of this bunch of Rightwing public schoolboys sipping champagne pretty nauseating -- but because of their politics, not the champagne. To me, champagne isn't a badge of luxury, it's simply a sign that you know how to enjoy life.

The French have long understood this. For all the tales of champagneswilling City boys, Russian oligarchs and Chinese nouveaux riches, it is the French themselves who guzzle 56 per cent of annual champagne production -- or 181 million bottles, almost four a year for every French adult. That's five times our per capita champagne consumption, even though the UK is by far the biggest export market.

Supermarkets all over France boast vast champagne sections. They drink it, like us, on special occasions but much more often than that too -- as an aperitif, or with food, such as shellfish. It's not some kind of statement of "le bling bling", it's just because they think it's a fantastic, versatile wine.

I can testify to that. As the Standard's wine critic, I taste thousands of bottles every year. And I have to say that for sheer drinking pleasure -- the moment at a tasting when I wish I could swallow a mouthful rather than spit it out -- it's more often than not a champagne that's in my hand.

Admittedly, I do get to taste some serious bubbles. The Vielles Vignes Francaises 1999 that I tasted while out at Bollinger for the harvest last month will stay with me a long time. …

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