The Office for National Statistics has included champagne in the nation's annual "shopping basket" (a measure of our spending trends) for the first time. We are drinking more champagne per capita than anywhere in the world; one bottle is opened every second. So it's official: bubbly is no longer the ultimate tipple. What was once the gift guaranteed to impress is now sloshing around in such quantities that we're being forced to question its status. You couldn't call it a backlash exactly - but the days of ordering a glass of champagne in a hotel bar and feeling like Holly Golightly are over. Likewise you can no longer grab any old bubbly off the shelf and assume that your dinner host will be blown away by your style. It's not the Babycham of the Noughties, but it may turn out to be the buttery Chardonnay.
As with everything that reaches saturation point, it's all about brand and context. In other words, the ubiquity of bubbly has brought the snob rules out of the woodwork. The boys at the admirable Corney & Barrow do not, for example, see fit to stock Moët et Chandon - Britain's favourite champagne - precisely because it's not special enough. After that it gets a bit more complicated, at least in my opinion.
Krug is believed to be smart and glamorous (fans are known as Krugistes on account of its being thought an acquired taste). Bollinger is always good but, thanks to Ab Fab (remember the Bolly-Stoli cocktails?), seems a trifle loud. Perrier Jouët is the house champagne at E&O, Notting Hill's chicest restaurant, so has a hip/media cachet. But Perrier Jouët Belle Époque rosé (the one with the flowers on the bottle) is the only champagne Posh Spice drinks, which does nothing for its posh credentials.
Cristal, though excellent, is also the bling champagne favoured by the likes of P Diddy and Usher, so it's super-flash and better drunk ironically on the deck of a yacht than at your daughter's christening. Laurent Perrier is a bit of a ladies' label - fun for the changing rooms in Agent Provocateur, but a bit too "boudoir" for general consumption. When pressed, the Corney & Barrow boys reckon that Veuve Clicquot is the best all-purpose brand : it won't scare the horses and is in just the right price bracket, not too showy, not too mean, not too "try hard". And you can't go wrong with a discreet £78's worth of Dom Pérignon.
Personally, I reckon that, to be on the safe side (and because it's a lot easier to guzzle in the sort of quantities that make you feel like an A-list jet setter with a lot of class), Prosecco is the way forward. But that's a whole other story.
Shane Watson's novel Other People's Marriages is out now from Macmillan (£6.99)