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France

Pop Culture

Hot Air Balloons & Bubbles: A Drinkable History Lesson

August 8, 2012

The custom of serving bubbly after a hot air balloon flight dates back to the 18th century.

If you’ve ever been on a hot air balloon flight, at the end of the magnificent journey, you probably enjoyed a glass of sparkling wine or French champagne. But did you ever wonder how the custom of serving bubbly after a flight began?

AshleyMcCredie, a blogger and content coordinator for Cloud 9 Living, an experience gift company, shares the story of how the champagne toast got its start.

“In late July I was lucky enough to have the once-in-a-lifetime type opportunity of a hot air balloon ride. I didn’t know much about hot air ballooning, and one thing that really stuck with me was the story behind the tradition of a champagne toast at the end of each flight.

My pilot, Jeff Meeker of Fair Winds, briefed us on the tradition and history behind the bubbly toast while presenting us all with a split of Korbel, a California sparkling wine. When I came home I wanted to dive more into the facts and story behind this, and here’s what I found.

The creation of the hot air balloon dates back to the 1700s, and the first flight occurred on Oct. 19, 1783 in France.

In 18th century France, there were educated people living in the city and there were landowners and peasants in the country. People in the rural areas often had little contact and connection to what was going on in the city.

So, picture this, you are a peasant working in the fields and all of the sudden you see this balloon floating through the air with fire coming out of it. Is it an alien? An attacker? For peasants who hadn’t heard of hot air ballooning,  the sight of a balloon falling from the sky surprised and often frightened them; especially when they saw the pilot’s face covered in black from ash and soot from the fire keeping the balloon aloft.

To avoid being attacked by the people they surprised, hot air balloon pilots carried Champagne or wine with them as a way to let onlookers know they were human and to thank them for the safe landing in their field.

Today, the toast often goes along with the Balloonist’s Blessing:

The winds have welcomed you with softness

The sun has blessed you with its warm hands

You have flown so high and so well

That God has joined you in your laughter

and set you gently back into the loving arms of mother earth.

 So, if you do take a flight, hopefully you’ll get to celebrate the experience with a toast and a cold glass of bubbly at the end!”

When she’s not hot-air ballooning, Ashley McCredie is a freelance blogger and writer, a photographer and a traveler. Follow her on Twitter at @ashleymccredie. 

Champagne, Drinks, Pop Culture

Champagne: The ultimate lifestyle & luxury drink for #ChampagneDay

October 28, 2011

Krug Champagne commissioned a $500,000 hot air balloon as a symbol of the brand’s image as a luxurious hand-crafted product.

I love champagne. Its effervescence excites me, its crispness makes me smile and its very aura is appealing. I drink it all, from the little grower champagnes to the Grand Dames. No other drink has the same complex creation, the unique history or the emotional impact.

Today on Champagne Day, I’m sharing a piece I wrote a few years ago about the way champagne is marketed to maintain its unique pop culture status.

Clear morning sunlight is just breaking over the distant hills, but I’ve been sipping champagne for an hour, floating in a hot air balloon at 2,500 feet above the Sonoran desert near Phoenix. A white scarf that recalls the magnificent men in their flying machines is draped around my neck.  The silence is broken by the roar of the propane burners that keep the elegant white balloon with its silvery vine logo afloat.

The occasion? Krug Champagne is flossing its unique brand of bespoke luxury in this $500,000 balloon outfitted with hand-tooled white leather, a mid-fight repast created by a French culinary designer and a pilot with a British accent.

Welcome to the new world of luxury champagne marketing. It’s not enough to tout the tastiness of your bubbly in a competitive industry set at just under $6 billion in 2010 according to trade group Comite Interprofesionnel du Vin de Champagne. Whether with cleverly designed bottles and baubles, super-exclusive cuvees or champagne lifestyle experiences, venerable maisons are busy dreaming up ever-more opulent ways to one-up each other and attract attention.

Veuve Clicquot hired ber-designer Karim Rashid to create a curvy pink tête-a-tête style loveseat with an ice bucket built into the center that sold for $10,000. His latest effort is Globalight, a $4,500 limited edition champagne cooler and carrier that keeps your rosé at the ideal temperature while bathing it in soft pink light.

Piper-Heidsieck — which first linked fashion and fizz with a bottle dressed in a Jean Paul Gaultier  red vinyl corset — has dressed Rosé Sauvage in a pink and black upside-down bottle by Viktor & Rolf. Last year they released a Christian Louboutin-designed crystal slipper (which also might be idea for Cristal-sipping). This year’s conceit was a bondage bottle dressed in black fishnets and a mask by Gaultier that cost $285 (at Park Avenue Liquor Shop) if you could even get your hands on one.

Perrier Jouët By and For – a true bespoke bubbly — burst on the scene this spring as the most expensive champagne to date. Celebs Sophie Marceau and Marianne Faithfull have jumped at the chance to be one of the lucky 100 to buy a case for about $98,000. The price includes a trip to Paris for four, “personality” champagne blending with the chef de caves, and lunch at the Maison Belle Epoque in Epernay. If that’s not enough, then consider dropping another $165,000 for the Van Cleef & Arpels anemone flower brooch set with 450 diamonds and 259 yellow sapphires that commemorates the launch.

But by far the most egregious example of the power of marketing is Armand de Brignac champagne, aka Ace of Spades that was introduced by rapper Jay Z. A few years ago, the Cattier family had little success selling champagne for about $64 a bottle in the U.S. Their fortunes changed after Cattier Champagne    — poured into a shiny gold bottle — appeared in the Jay-Z video “Show Me What You Got.” Now it sells for $300 a pop.

Though the flying Krug room takes champagne marketing to new heights, at least there’s a historical precedent. In the late 1700s when the French balloon aviation pioneers took a flight, they always carried a bottle of champagne as a peace offering since the balloon were prone to landing unexpectedly in some poor farmer’s field.

“That’s the same wine in the bottle and the taste has not changed,” said Remi Fritsch-Frontages, Krug’s brand director. “What you create around it that makes people see it with new eyes.”

So what’s next? The Krug Formula One race car? The Krug yacht?  Or maybe they’ll follow the lead of Hermès and launch the Krug Kopter.

Bubbly Girl Cocktail Recipes, Drinks

Chambord Has a New Look, and a Vodka too

October 2, 2010
chambord-vodka-and-liqueur

I was sitting at the long Carrara marble bar of the Lake Chalet looking out at Lake Merritt and the rows of liquor bottle on the back bar. I saw lot of familiar bottles, but noticed that the familiar round Chambord bottle had changed. And Chambord, the venerable black raspberry liqueur has a new sibling — a flavored vodka

The bottle has lost its crown, it’s replaced with a crown medallion on front. The top of the cap and the bottle have a new flower with four pointed petals, like a play on the French design called a quatrefoil. Chambord has a new look that stars the quatrefoil, a four-pointed floral motif.

Quatrefoils are popular motifs on churches in France, England and especially Italy. But the most familiar example of the quatrefoil is on the iconic Louis Vuitton logo created in 1896.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the distinctive and deep berry taste of Chambord liqueur. It starts with blackberries and raspberries being infused into neutral grain spirits. Then it’s blended with flavors of black raspberries and currants, cognac, vanilla and herbs.

The new Chambord vodka is a pretty berry pink color and carried the same berry favor with a cleaner — and sharper — vodka edge.

It’s easy to think of lots of ways to use both: splashed into sparkling wine, shaken into a French Martini or even just poured into lemonade. I like the looks of the French Sparkle, a cocktail with mango nectar, Chambord vodka and champagne on the company’s website.

But one of my favorite ways to use Chambord is in a simple cocktail I’ve dubbed the Queen for a Day Mimosa. A mimosa gets so much more interesting with a splash of Chambord. It’s a delicious libation that makes you feel royal whether you’re sipping it at brunch or any time of day.


Queen for a Day Mimosa

1/2 ounce Chambord Liqueur
2 ounces fresh orange juice
3 ounces brut sparkling wine or champagne, chilled
fresh or frozen raspberry or blackberry

Add Chambord to a champagne flute. Top with the orange juice and sparkling wine or champagne. Garnish with a raspberry or blackberry.

© 2010 Maria Hunt aka The Bubbly Girl