Last week grog, next week coffee punch, but this week German champagne. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it – that is, research every food and drink reference that crops up in the Book, and make sure we head off on our Adventure in the autumn suitably provisioned.
Of course you can’t get German champagne anymore – or rather you can’t call it champagne. Like Melton Mowbray pork pies or Gorgonzola cheese, ‘champagne’ must – according to EU Regulation No 1151/2012 of the European Parliament – hail from a specific region in France in order to qualify as real champagne. Decent German fizzy wine should really be referred to as ‘Sekt’.
Actually, German fizz hasn’t been allowed to be referred to as champagne since well before the EU was invented. According to Wikipedia, one of the stipulations of the Versailles Treaty of 1919 was that the Germans cease and desist from using the word. You’d think the French (and the British) might have had more important things to worry about at the time.
The oldest and most classic sekt of them all is Kessler and you can still visit the original cellar in Esslingen today. I feel sure this would be the kind of tipple Davies would have rolling around in his bilge. Let’s face it, Kessler advertising has always been compelling. In 1904 the classic two scampering ‘Piccolos’ were invented (see above) and still in 1959 the ‘twin waiter’ theme was being used to marvellous effect:
Delicious and stylish as German champagne must have been in 1903, really Carruthers and Davies should have been shunning it.
All German champagne after 1902 was subject to a ‘Schaumwein’ tax brought in by the Kaiser precisely to raise money for his navy. Every bottle of bubbly sold contributed directly towards the development of the Kiel canal and the expansion of the German Imperial Navy – the very thing Childers was trying to warn the British public about.
So explicit was the connection between German champagne drinking and German military expansion that by 1910 Kessler was using this ‘Dreadnought’ imagery in its advertising to encourage sabre-rattling Germans to drink their way to European military supremacy:
I think I can hear Carruthers choking on his bubbly…