In English, the word bubbly is commonly used to refer to sparkling wine in general.
In my last post for the Moscato d’Asti Stories blog, we looked at some of the historic reasons why sparkling wine became so popular in western culture. As has been written on many different occasions by as many different writers, it all started with the royals in Europe and their belief that sparkling wine has health-enhancing properties. And the fact that the royals were drinking them gave sparkling wine an aura of luxury and privilege. And ultimately, average Jane and Joe consumers began serving it on special occasions when they would splurge (something the royals can afford to do every day but most of us cannot).
But today, young sommeliers, especially in the U.S., hardly associate sparkling wine with royalty anymore. In fact, it’s almost entirely lost its cultural connection to aristocracy as wine has become increasingly demotic in terms of access and appreciation. So…
Why do we still associate sparkling wine with special occasions?
I believe, and I’m sure many will disagree with me, that part of the answer lies in language. In English, the word bubbly is commonly used to refer to sparkling wine in general.
But it also has another meaning, very much present in the minds of English speakers: Of a person, or his or her personality, nature, etc.: vivacious, full of high spirits (according to the Oxford English Dictionary).
Similarly, the word effervescent can be used to describe something that is bubbly or bubbling over — literally or figuratively. She/he has an effervescent personality, you might hear someone say of someone outgoing and cheerful.
I can imagine that some readers will find my theory far-fetched. But what I’m trying to get at here is that in the mind of the English speaker, the very mention of bubbly evokes both the wine and the mood, as it were. That doesn’t hold true for all languages, of course. But in the case of my mother tongue, I believe there is a strong linguistic connection and overlap between celebration and sparkling wine that bolsters our association of sparkling wine with festivity.
In my next post, I’ll look at some of the visual and even aural cues that sparkling wine gives us and how it sets the mood for celebration.