Champagne has been the drink of parties and celebration since the 18th century and a lot of it was consummed in Old Shanghai. In 1934, about 42.000 bottles of French Champagne where imported in China, mostly through Shanghai port.
Champagne was served in the many private parties organised then. It is public knowledge that Champagne was flowing freely at Victor Sassoon’s party. Drinking Champagne at a wealthy Chinese mansion in Shanghai is mentionned in “Shanghai secrets” by Jean Fontenoy, the editor in chief of French newspaper “Le journal de Shanghai”. Champagne was also available in the numerous restaurants, bars, clubs and dancings in the city.
Above picture is the first page of the Sun Sun sky terrace wine list displayed in previous post (See post “French wines in Old Shanghai“). Lines 1 to 4 are famous Champagne brands that are again available in Shanghai today : 1 Pommery, 2 Veuve Cliquot, 3 Mumm Cordon Rouge, 4 Piper Heidsieck. Champagne was already very expensive then, as a bottle of the best Champagne was 30$, 3 times more than Chateau Lafite from Bordeaux or Corton from Burgundy. There was a real premium for sparkling wines as the cheapest on the list was more expensive than the best red wines.
Importing Champagne was a big business for a number of French companies that were the Champagne houses agents in Shanghai. French company Racine & Cie was the agent of Champagne Heidsieck mentionned above. Racine & Cie was one of the major agents for French companies in Shanghai, with its GM Jean Donné being a member of the board of the French Chamber of Commerce in 1930. Racine & Cie also imported French tinned food (See post “Vegs in a can” for more details).
Mumm Cordon Rouge Champagne was imported by smaller French import company Optorg, with advertising in “Le Journal de Shanghai”. The above ad is about 14th July 1931, with the following caption : “To upstand your reputation and match the taste of yours guests, serve them Mumm”. In Shanghai as well, serving French Champagne was seen as a matter of high taste.
Although not in the Sun Sun restaurant drink list, Lanson Champagne was imported in Shanghai by British trading firme Calbeck MacGregor. Above ad is from Le Journal de Shanghai 1st January 1932.
Other sparkling wines from France were also available in China, including Loire Valley Veuve Amiot, imported by leading French trading company Olivier Chine. Above picture shows 2931 bottles to Tientsin (today Tianjin) and 3642 to Shanghai.