What Is The Raison D’être Of Champagne?

As a vinosopher my life is a true journey. Every experience pops up its own existential questions which challenge me to think about the mystery of life. One of those moments was the last 15th of the month, the day of each month my wife and I toast on our marriage with a sparkling glass of Champagne. And when we did, the philosophical question came to me “does Champagne as such have a purpose?”. Or to put it in proper English: what is the raison d’être of Champagne?

In victory, you deserve Champagne. In defeat, you need it.
(Napoleon Bonaparte)

Initially, I thought that every alcoholic drink was nothing but a beverage used to induce intoxication. It eases the mind and body so that personal topics, highs and lows, are better able to flow naturally in conversations. Wine is a solvent, you could say, breaking down the reluctances surrounding sensitive conversations. But thinking about it the answer felt a little too easy. Wasn’t there more depth than this?

In answering these kinds of questions more fundamentally it is good to fall back on previous thinkers or philosophers on relevant questions. For example, the famous Persian philosopher Avicenna Ibn Sina who would work late into the night and when he got tired, would sip some wine to keep him alert. By doing this he provided us with two insights into wine’s purpose. Firstly its purpose was the rejuvenation of the tired mind. Secondly, it proved to contribute to the contemplation of fundamental being, as he came, sipping his wine, to the conclusion that God is his own cause, since something cannot come from nothing. A fundamental insight that was posed up with the support of wine.

At night I would return home, set out a lamp before me,
and devote myself to reading and writing.
Whenever sleep overcame me or I became conscious of weakening,
I would turn aside to drink a cup of wine, so that my strength would return to me.
(Quoted in W E Gohhnan, The Life of Ibn Sina (1974))

Another relevant insight we can take from the Catholic tradition. Following Jesus’s words at the Last Supper, wine plays an extremely important function during mass. It is used by the priest during the Eucharist as a liquid that is transformed into the literal blood of Jesus (a process called transubstantiation). But what exactly is the function of the Eucharist? It is used to remind us of the sacrifice Jesus gave, and to rejuvenate our souls through his blood, saving us from death. In short, wine functions as a bridge to the utterly transcendent. Hence, also the Catholic tradition provides us with further insight into the purpose of wine, whether it is still, sparkling, or even Champagne. Wine allows us to contemplate the very source of reality, of all that, exists and it deploys an infinitesimally small bridge between finite and infinite.

The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness
and the power of contemplation,
rather than upon mere survival.

If we oversee these insights we can infer that the overarching theme is that the elixir has been used by some of the world’s sages to push the very boundary of human reason, even surpassing it and venturing into the mystery of the divine. In our modern age, we would do well to learn from the ancient traditions and rediscover a contemplative sense and gaze toward mystery.

As we all sometimes experience, a profound insight opens up a world of contemplation and transcendence. Since I nourished myself with a glass of Champagne and contemplated on the question “What is the raison d’être of Champagne?”, I remember that I did partake in a rich history of thinkers who have used such nectar to tarry with life’s greatest questions. With that in mind, I hope that reading this has instilled in you a new reverence for Champagne.

Good vibes!

Corné van Nijhuis
World’s first self-declared Vinosopher

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