A peasant would surely choose for breakfast a piece of bread with a glass of milk, a model on a slimming diet or an ascetic would take a glass of water. There are individuals who would eagerly give half the kingdom for a bottle of beer, some juice or a smoothie. Meanwhile, we will explore the dark alleys of history looking for the starting point where the tradition of starting the breakfast with a glass of champagne to zone out of the mortal coil was born.
It is absolutely necessary to mention that our ancestors, although living in different corners of the planet, developed a similar habit of treating themselves with alcoholic drinks and established, since the year dot, a good deep-rooted tradition of having some alcohol for breakfast both for pleasure and for the reasons of safety, as at that time it was believed that wine and beer were safer than water. Given that there were no filters and water treatment facilities, water was often pestilent and thus harmful for health. Egyptians started the day with beer. Greeks damped bread with wine and Romans invented a drink called mulsum (wine with honey, spices and herbs).
In the Middle Ages breakfast was classified by Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica as the sin of gluttony. By the way, medieval monarchs and their attendants started eating only about noon. Early substantial breakfast was meant for peasants who needed to eat properly in the morning in order to have energy for hard physical work.
However, starting from the XVth century things changed and the noble society willingly adopted the habit of having something nice to eat in the morning. Moreover, somewhere from the XVIth century breakfast already became a part of the day and an item of the royal budget, although undoubtedly the upper class still preferred to eat later in the afternoon than earlier in the morning, after having had enough sleep.
Louis XIV was literally in love with champagne. It was the favorite wine of the king who had a heart for it since the time of his coronation in Reims, a town in the province of Champagne. So did his personal doctor, Antoine d’Aquin, a stickler of sparkling wine. Either to accommodate the wishes of the king or just because he really was convinced in what he preached, Antoine d’Aquin maintained that sparkling wine was extremely useful for health and even administered to the king a glass of champagne after each meal, including breakfast. To tell the truth, the next royal doctor was less enthusiastic about alcoholic drinks, but it was too late to give up as the royal household, who made a point of following the king in everything, did the same for the sparkling wine and couldn’t do without it.
Another member of the royal family unable to resist his weakness for sparkling wine was the regent duke Philippe of Orleans, who ruled the country till the majority of the infant king Louis XV. Was there anything more perfectly fit than champagne to dress up the fabulous orgies organized by the king’s tutor, who was famous for his depravity and bad moral even though he wasn’t young? Madame de Pompadour, the mistress of the young king, who grew up and soon followed the same line, appreciated the sparkling wine because it always came useful when she needed to entertain her lover, prone to ruffle and often bored. Half of all the sparkling wine produced at that time in France was supplied to the Parc-aux-cerfs, a manor not far from Versailles, where Pompadour organized for the king sexual encounters with young girls.
However, it was not the end. The sparkling wine reached the peak of popularity owing to the last mistress of the king, Madame Dubarry, a former woman of pleasure, who introduced some refreshing changes in the etiquette mostly because she didn’t care about conventions and traditions. She walked around the palace in half-transparent dresses letting her hair down, used almost no face paint and, the most important, never started her day without a glass of champagne. And what about the king, what about the etiquette? But was the king, aged then fifty-eight, merely able to refuse anything to this young beauty he was madly in love with? Certainly not. And his entire household immediately started drinking sparkling wine for breakfast without asking questions. That’s how traditions are born. That’s why in an expensive hotel they always serve for breakfast a bottle of chilled champagne with ice.
Lots of famous people enjoyed drinking sparkling wine in the morning. For example, Marilyn Monroe declared going to bed with Chanel No5 and waking up with a glass of Piper-Heidsieck.
The Pol Roger company created a champagne bottle of a special volume (0.57 l or an imperial pint) for sir Winston Churchill. It was exactly the dose of sparkling wine the prime minister had the habit of drinking in the morning. Traditionally it was served by 11 AM.
Even Alexander Pushkin invited his friends for a breakfast with champagne to the French restaurant “Talon”.
The tradition of drinking sparkling wine in the morning can also be explained rationally. Wine is not easily combined with eggs, which are the base of a traditional breakfast. The egg yolk is a way too special product from the point of view of enogastronomy. It envelopes the taste buds and either gives to wine some metallic taste or makes it tasteless. That’s why wine experts thought about the sparkling wine. Small bubbles contained in the liquid clean the palates making thus the taste of the drink strong and bright and allowing you to enjoy your breakfast as fully as possible. Just try it: a drop of magic drink and you will appreciate the effect!
Whatever is the version you prefer, the historical or the enogastronomic one, the next time when you will be having breakfast with a glass of champagne, remember all the long and winding way the sparkling wine made to reach your table and welcome it once again.