“Love is like being enlivened with Champagne.” Samuel Johnson
Valentine’s Day is here which means that sales of champagne are nearing New Year’s levels. For the almost three decades since Dom Perignon set about standardizing production of the French bubbly, the beverage touted a reputation as an aphrodisiac. However, does sipping on the champagne really stimulate the libido?
The short answer is “Of course not. If you believe that, I’ve got some flies from Spain to sell ya.” Some alleged aphrodisiacs attribute their powers to mythology like the oyster; others make dubious scientific claims to minerals, nutrients, and enzymes which heighten circulation like the pomegranate; champagne does not indulge in either fantasy. Yet, historically, there are some solid psychological and physiological explanations for the romantic rep. And sadly, the reputation amounts to a poor reflection on modern human values.
For starters, champagne is alcoholic. Not only is champagne carbonated, but there are also those bubbles. The body absorbs alcohol from carbonated beverages faster according to studies by Fran Ridout and the human psychopharmacology department at the University of Surrey in Guildford. So, yes, the bubble really do “go to your head.”
As most know, booze lowers inhibitions, a effect that was often mistaken for seduction in less enlightened times (and unfortunately our own times, in too many cases.) Of course, there is some poetic justice involved for anyone amoral enough to consider this a positive. Alcohol also reduces sexual performance for both women and men. In the latter group, excessive quantities can make sex a physical impossibility.
The price tag also plays a factor. Champagne is famously associated with wealth and the ability to drop that kind of dough on a drink is a signifier of luxury. The cost was even higher when the wine gained that reputation in the 19th century. Back then, table wine was common enough, but bubbly was truly exclusive. There was no California made method champenoise, no Taylor, and the good stuff was definitely not available in 12oz. cans. Maybe, you can’t buy love, but many a Victorian aristocrat rented it with a bottle of the good stuff.
Symbolism also plays a factor. The Aphrodisiac Encyclopaedia notes several sexually suggestive elements to the drink. The bottle features a long, phallic looking neck and tip. The act of uncorking the pressurized bottle is also clearly sexual in nature.
So, no. Champagne is not some magic aphrodisiac unless you have some very troubling ideas about consent and wealth. However, if you and your partner love bubbly (and who doesn’t?!), then the romance is still there; after all, how better to set the mood then someone you love and a bottle of bubbly?