The centuries-old relationship between Russia and France spans wars, revolutions and a deep appreciation of Champagne.\r\n\r\nThe sparkling wine was first popularized in 18th-century imperial Russia during the reign of Empress Anna Ivanovna (1730\u201340). During her successor, Elizabeth Petrovna\u2019s reign (1741\u201362), it wasn\u2019t uncommon to serve 1,000 bottles of Champagne at a single event. The bottles of Chanoine Fr\u00e8res, one of the oldest Champagne houses, graced the tables of notables like Czarina Catherine II, better known as Catherine the Great.\r\n\r\nBut it wasn\u2019t until Russians encountered Veuve Clicquot\u2019s Champagne that they fell in love with the wine.\r\n\r\n\r\nChampagne and the Napoleonic Wars\r\nRussian consumption of the sparkling wine outside of nobility took off during the Napoleonic Wars (1800\u201315), when troops occupied Champagne and pillaged the region\u2019s vineyards.\r\n\r\nIn the short term, this was devastating for Champagne producers like Veuve Clicquot, helmed by Madame Clicquot at the time. But she was able to turn this inventory loss to her advantage.\r\n\r\nMadame Clicquot, pioneer of disgorging, was the first woman to head a Champagne house. Rather than hide her bottles from the invading army, she plied them with it. It was during this time that she was said to have uttered the famous phrase: \u201cToday they drink; tomorrow they will pay.\u201d\r\n\r\nBut for years, Clicquot kept her 1811 vintage, regarded as the first modern Champagne because it was sediment free. When the Napoleonic Wars were nearly over and her money was nearly gone, Madame Clicquot defied French trade blockades to bring her Champagne to Russia.\r\n\r\nIn 1814, she loaded the last of her Champagne in secret onto a Russia-bound ship. If the ship was caught, or sank, or the journey ruined the bottles, she would\u2019ve been bankrupt and possibly imprisoned.\r\n\r\nFortunately, none of that happened, and her Champagne arrived in K\u00f6nigsberg (modern-day Kaliningrad) safely.\r\n\r\nHer earlier efforts and sacrifices paid off. The Russians greeted her Champagne\u2019s arrival with great enthusiasm. They remembered her high-quality beverage and lined up to buy her product. Not only was her business saved, it cemented her Champagne as the finest in the world.\r\n\r\nChampagne, which for a time was referred to simply as Clicquot, became so popular in Russia that it remained the second-largest consumer of bubbly until the Russian Revolution.\r\n\r\nCzar Alexander I even declared that Clicquot\u2019s 1811 vintage, known as \u201cThe Year of the Comet,\u201d was all he would drink.\r\n\r\n\r\nRussia makes its own sparkling wine\r\nRussian enthusiasm for Champagne was so strong that the country started to produce its own sparkling wine.\r\n\r\nPrince Lev Golitsyn (1845\u20131916) is widely regarded as the founder of the practice, which developed out of his experiments on his estate in Crimea, situated just below Ukraine on the Black Sea.\r\n\r\nIn 1900, Golitsyn took his wine to the Exposition Universelle in Paris. Also called the Paris Exposition, it was a world\u2019s fair to recognize the achievements of the past century and encourage further innovation. His sparkling wine, made at his estate Novyi Svet, beat the French wines in a blind taste test, which earned Russia the coveted Grand Prix de Champagne.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThe popularity of Champagne with Russian royalty continued to increase during the 19th century.\r\n\r\nLouis Roederer shipped many of his finer bottles to Russia.\r\n\r\nIn 1876, he created Cristal, regarded by many as the first prestige cuv\u00e9e, at the request of Czar Alexander II. Its name comes from the clear crystal used originally to manufacture the bottles. Due to his paranoia, Alexander II insisted the bottles be clear to prevent bombs being placed in or under them.\r\n\r\n\r\nThe Russian Revolution and Champagne\r\nRussian interest in Champagne was halted abruptly with the Russian Revolution (1917\u201323), when \u201cdecadent\u201d foreign imports were prohibited under Soviet rule.\r\n\r\nAt Soviet strongman Joseph Stalin\u2019s request, the country began to manufacture its own sparkling wine, Sovetskoye Shampanskoye.\r\n\r\nThis mass-produced sparkling wine was syrupy sweet and suitable for the proletariat. Though too expensive for everyday consumption, it was an essential element of celebratory events like New Year\u2019s Eve.\r\n\r\nAlthough Sovetskoye Shampanskoye can still be purchased from private manufacturers, few would recommend it. Rather than continue the Soviet approach to create sparkling wine in enormous vats, modern Russian producers are returning to traditional methods either not feasible or forbidden under Stalin.\r\n\r\n\r\nChampagne in today\u2019s Russia\r\nRussia continues to produce its own sparkling wine, but it has again become one of the world\u2019s leading importers of Champagne.\r\n\r\nChampagne producers understand the importance that Russia has played in the continued popularity of their wine.\r\n\r\nIn 1996, Maison Chanoine Fr\u00e8res honored the women of the Russian nobility who helped bolster Champagne\u2019s popularity throughout Europe during the Age of Enlightenment (1685\u20131815) with a new release, Tsarine.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nEverything about Tsarine, from the curved bottle modeled after the domes of St. Basil\u2019s to the name, are evocative of the period of Russian history.\r\n\r\nDespite numerous ups and downs since the 1700s, Russia\u2019s relationship with Champagne remains strong. It buys about 215 million bottles of Champagne every year. Around 53 million of those bottles are consumed during or around New Year\u2019s celebrations.\r\n\r\nIf history is any indication, Russia and Champagne will enjoy a close relationship far into the future.