The Babylonians are said to have slaughtered an ox whenever they launched a ship while the Vikings killed a slave.
In 15th-century England it was customary for a representative of the king to drink a goblet of wine, sprinkle some on the deck of a new ship and then throw the goblet overboard. But by the 18th century so many ships were being launched that all this goblet throwing was proving rather expensive – bottles of wine were used instead.
The first time champagne was used instead of ordinary wine was when Queen Victoria launched HMS Royal Arthur in 1891. Champagne isn’t exclusively used though. Cunard ships are launched using white wine, the Queen used a bottle of whisky when she launched HMS Queen Elizabeth, and submarines are traditionally launched with a humble bottle of home brew beer.