The Reason Champagne Is Used To Christen New Ships

Champagne is a celebratory and prized wine of the French culture, but people all over the world enjoy it, especially Americans. According to a 2020 Reuters report, the United States takes the No. 1 spot for importing the French beverage, buying up to $771.54 million worth.

Champagne has been a mark of luxury long before TI and Drake were singing about "Poppin Bottles." The legendary rock band, U2, would spray champagne on the audience at the end of their concerts, and rumor has it that Marilyn Monroe once took a bath in the equivalent of 350 bottles of bubbly (via Drinks.NG). 

One of the more intriguing uses of champagne is ship christening. It's a bit of a head scratcher that we would waste something so precious, but christening boats has been a longstanding tradition. Per Crownline, making a sacrifice to the "sea gods" has been a custom for thousands of years. Vinepair offers more historical depth, sharing that the Babylonians sacrificed oxen to obtain the blessings of the sea before a new boat set sail, while the Vikings turned to human sacrifice to ensure smooth sailing and safe travels. So, when did the practice of smashing bottles of our favorite bubbly become a part of this tradition?   

A welcomed celebration even if a bit superstitious

The BBC reports that in 1891, the first ship known to be christened using a bottle of champagne was part of Queen Victoria's naval fleet, and the bottle was smashed by the queen herself. John Graves, who curates ship history at the National Maritime Museum in the U.K. told the outlet, "It was a very prestigious warship with a royal name so champagne would have seemed fitting, it's a celebratory drink, but before that it had been the tradition to use [other] wine." Graves notes that in the 15th century, a royal rep would be a part of this ceremony, bearing wine in a silver goblet. He would douse the deck with a bit of the vino and throw the rest, goblet and all, into the sea. But that practice became pricey, which is why they moved to bottles of champagne

Interestingly, Graves told the BBC that during the American prohibition, "...water was used in the US to launch a ship. It would be water from the sea the vessel was to be launched into." Still, an offering for luck was made. But is this just a frivolous practice based on superstition? Vinepair suggests maybe it is, but to be fair, per The FW, the builders of the Titanic didn't use champagne to christen the "unsinkable ship," and we all know how that story turned out.