Beverage Recommendation for this Post: try Russian Champagne to get the full experience or for a non-alcoholic drink, a dark crisp Cold Brew that will keep the memories of dark times at bay
Of all of France’s claims to fame found throughout history, one of the most iconic is that sweet, bubbly champagne found at almost any celebration. Hailing from the region of France named Champagne, this type of wine is traditionally a sparkling white that uses grapes grown in the region and is normally put through a second fermentation. France has worked very hard throughout history to emphasize that any sparkling white wine is not champagne, only wines made it a very specific process and from grapes in that specific region of France can be legally labeled champagne. Champagne has been developed as more than just a drink but also as a symbol of class and a lavish lifestyle. Holding a glass of champagne was for the wealthy elite who could afford such a niche drink and signified a better life overall. This was an image and ideal the France had worked hard over the years to perfect.
So when a product going by the name, Russian Champagne began to appear in the markets of the motherland before the revolution it sparked interest as an unusual product to say the least. Primarily made with grapes grown on the Crimean coast, Russia Champagne was spear headed by Prince Lev Golitsyn and Anton Mikhailovich Frolov-Bagreev. The latter of which earned renown in the revolution and after such began extensive work in making Russian Champagne a drink for the masses of the Soviet Union. One highlight of this innovation in Russia Champagne was the fermentation in large vats rather than in individual bottles as is traditional. By 1942, 12,000,000 bottles were being produced per year, giving the masses of the Soviet Union a taste of the high life, claiming to be just as good as or greater than French Champagne.
Beyond the astonishing work and effort that went into making this drink, Russian Champagne is also a symbol, but one far different than its French cousin. Russian Champagne is a symbol encouraged and pushed by the Soviet government as a way of reassuring the mass public that they made the right choice. In the aftermath of the revolution there were so many changes in economic and political style by the government that it left a bad taste in the mouth of a lot of the masses. To be able to put not just a glass of champagne in every hand, but Russian Champagne was a sign of success not just on Western terms but in the terms of the Soviet Union. The emphasis on enforcing a national identity and then reinforcing it with Western Symbols re-branded as Russian was a powerful balm on the worried and unsure Russian masses. How could you question how well the new regime was doing when the country was ‘well off’ enough for champagne, the drink of French kings, to be found at the local market? But not just any champagne, Russian champagne. All the pain and hardship of the war and revolution, the paranoia and fear of the new regime, easily washed away with just one glass. Drink comrades, drink to forget.