A year ago, we presented a barleywine, a very strong beer, as a stand-in for the traditional Champagne in our New Year’s Eve edition of Birds and Booze. It was a rich and complex beer, perfectly enjoyable as a sipper on a cold December evening, and with a lovely Northern Cardinal on the label – but it wasn’t the customary bubbly I’d hoped to find for the occasion. And a year later, we find ourselves in the same situation: it seems impossible to find a bottle of sparkling wine fit for New Year’s Eve with a bird on the label.
I know there are a few out there, but none that have been available to me locally. The estate of Jean de la Fontaine in Hauts-de-France produces a brut Champagne named L’Eloquente with a very Gallic chicken silhouette on the label, and South Australia’s Bird in Hand winery makes sparkling wines as well. But these are the exceptions, with most Champagne and sparkling wine makers appearing to favor the elegant austerity of large serif typefaces, perhaps with a fin-de-siècle flourish of Art Nouveau tracery, with little else in the way of adornment. They’re certainly bereft of birds, for the most part. Why this should be is beyond me: there are several obvious candidates.
For instance, we have two “sparkling” hummingbirds: the Sparkling-tailed Hummingbird and the Sparkling Violet-ear. What sparkling wine producer wouldn’t want one of these resplendent little gems gracing their bottles?
Less colorful but perhaps even more appropriately named is the Bubbling Cisticola (Cisticola bulliens) – a member of a genus of mostly African songbirds.
Better still, the Black-bellied Bustard (Lissotis melanogaster) or Korhaan gives a call that begins with a pop, followed some fizzy gurgling, which has earned this African bird the nickname “Champagne bird“.
I think any one of these birds would make an excellent mascot for a bottle of Champagne or sparkling wine, but wineries so far have been reluctant to adopt them. Vintage Champagne ads are another story though, with a handful of old examples featuring domestic fowl, as in this rooster poster…
…or gamebirds, as in this especially attractive label from pioneering California winemaker Paul Masson, which features a partridge (and its eye):
But this was all very long ago. Where have all the Champagne birds gone? Will they make a return in 2019? One can hope.
Rather than again recommending another libation to stand in for sparkling wine, our advice at Birds and Booze is to follow tradition and enjoy whatever sparkling wine you happen to find in front of you at midnight this Monday, bereft as it may be of hummingbirds, cisticolas, bustards, or partridges.
Good birding and happy drinking – and happy New Year from Birds and Booze!