Do They Really Have Enough Champagne in Death on the Nile to Fill the Nile?

To. Fill. The. Nile. Photo: 20th Century Studios/YouTube

It’s a line that has haunted me ever since I saw the most recent Death on the Nile trailer, and again and again seemingly whenever I went to a movie theater thereafter. Gal Gadot, as the glamorous newlywed Linnet Ridgeway-Doyle, stands on a stairway on a steamship, announcing that they have it all to themselves, with a chef “and enough Champagne to fill the Nile!” After the word Champagne, she pauses long enough to run through every possible use of sparkling wine in her head. Finally, Gadot arrives at “to fill the Nile!” while simultaneously tossing her glass of Champagne overboard. In the trailer, this action occurs between snapping sounds in a slowed-down trailer-core version of Depeche Mode’s “Policy of Truth.” “A chef” (snap) “and enough Champagne” (pause where there should be another snap) “to fill the Nile!” (snap). The rhythmic effect is haunting. Just by describing it now, I’ve gotten it stuck in my head again. It’s like a beat dropping in a pop song: enough Champagne … TO FILL THE NILE.

Naturally, once it was possible to get into a press screening of Death on the Nile, I had just one question I needed answering: Does Linnet Ridgeway-Doyle actually have enough Champagne to fill the Nile? (Who did the murder is, of course, secondary. People die, this is an Agatha Christie adaptation, we get it. Tertiary is figuring out whether Rose Leslie or Kenneth Branagh is doing a weirder fake French accent. That one I’m still pondering.) Based on my notes, here is a rough estimate of the Champagne consumption over the course of this film.

At an early scene at a party in London where we first meet happy couple Emma Mackey and Armie Hammer, and then glamorous interloper Gadot appears, I counted nine coupes of a yellow liquid I will assume is Champagne. At a later party in Egypt, where it’s revealed that actually Armie and Gal are together now, I counted 11 Champagne flutes passed out to characters over the course of the scene, plus nine bottles of Champagne in the background.

Once the characters all get onboard the steamship Karnak, Gal doles out Champagne to everyone again, while two attendants carrying trays of what I believe were a dozen flutes stand behind her. A bottle pops in the background when she announces, “… to fill the Nile!” (I went “ah!” in my seat as it happened; sorry to the other members of the press.) You can also see six additional, larger bottles in the background of the scene; let’s assume they were magnums. They have another party on the boat later with a lot of balloons, where I counted four more magnums on a table. Once Armie and Gal decide that they can’t deal with Emma’s stalking and head home, they celebrate by popping another bottle of Champagne and handing it out to about a half-dozen characters nearby. Hercule Poirot has a flute and gets quite disoriented. Here, the Champagne consumption in the film abruptly ends, because, of course (SPOILER ALERT if you have never read Death on the Nile or seen its many film adaptations), Linnet gets murdered. Without her, nobody is motivated to fill the Nile with Champagne anymore.

Going off these rough estimates, we have a total of nine coupes, 41 flutes, 11 classic bottles, and six magnums of Champagne. (I know that they are probably drinking the Champagne in the glasses from the bottles nearby in each scene, but let’s be charitable and assume that there could be other bottles off-screen that account for the volume of Champagne in those glasses.) According to the French Comité Champagne website, which je trust, a classic Champagne bottle has a capacity of 0.75 cubic liters. According to Wikipedia — which je trust less, but, hey, the article seems thorough — a Champagne flute generally holds 180 to 300 milliliters of liquid, while a coupe generally holds 180 to 240 milliliters. Linnet seems quite fond of showing off her money, so let’s assume she’s filling all her guests’ glasses up to their maximum capacity. That brings us to a total of 37.71 liters of Champagne.

Is that enough Champagne to fill the Nile? The answer, it will not surprise you, is no. The Nile is one of the world’s largest rivers. That is comparatively not very much Champagne. According to this random British bathtub retailer that is now haunting my internet ads, people use an average of about 100 liters of water to fill a bathtub, so Linnet is only a third of the way to being able to do that with Champagne. She has enough Champagne … to fill up a bathtub a little bit! She should not get in … because you should not bathe in alcohol! Even if my accounting is off by a wide margin, we’re really just talking about enough Champagne … to alienate a friend by ruining their bathroom.

If Linnet really wanted to fill the Nile, however, then things get complicated. Almost as soon as I launched this quest, I realized it’s very hard to find data about the total volume of water in the Nile, because the water that we think of as “the Nile” constantly flows into the Mediterranean and doesn’t just sit there, like in a lake or a bathtub you might find advertised on a British website. (That amount also depends on a variety of weather and climate conditions, and like most natural phenomena at the moment, those are getting direr.) But you can find statistics about the discharge of the Nile at different locations, which is the volume of water per second traveling downstream at a specific point in the river. This is more useful for our interests anyway, because in order to “fill” a river, you have to provide a constant flow of liquid, not just one set amount.

Now, if you were to suck all of the water out of the Nile riverbed somehow (bad idea, would kill a lot of things), you could theoretically replace it with an equivalent discharge of something else, like Champagne. And if you refilled the Nile with Champagne, how much would you need to pour in per second? According to Wikipedia, in Aswan, Egypt (which is where the characters in the movie are headed, so I’m using it; I know that the discharge has probably changed between 1937 and the present, but I do not care), the Nile has an average discharge of 2,633 cubic meters per second, or 2,633,000 liters per second. That’s equal to a total of 3,510,666 and two-thirds of a standard bottle of Champagne traveling along per second, or 8,776,666 and two-thirds of a very full flute of Champagne per second.

So when Linnet throws her one flute of Champagne overboard … to fill the Nile! … she is not really filling the Nile at all. But if the Nile were actually empty and nearly 8.8 million other people joined her in this pursuit and kept throwing in flutes of Champagne every second until the end of time, then perhaps they could collectively fill a Champagne Nile. Maybe they could all snap in unison to a slowed-down trailer-core version of Depeche Mode’s “Policy of Truth” as they do this in order to keep time. But no, that cannot happen, because instead Linnet is murdered. This is the real tragedy of Death on the Nile.

In Death on the Nile, Enough Champagne to Fill the Nile?