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Champagne Galore

A short history of bubbly, with a few “tasting notes"



Champagne. For this holiday hymn to that fabulous effervescent diversion, a few “tasting notes” are in order. Something light and fizzy, like the nectar itself. After all, it’s not just any sparkling wine we’re talking about, but the nonpareil of aperitifs.

Let us begin with the matter of when to drink Champagne. There is no better authority than the venerable Madame Lily Bollinger, who until just a few years ago headed the famed house founded by her ancestors in 1829. Mme. Bollinger’s advice was simple: “I drink Champagne when I am happy and when I am sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have guests I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I am not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it unless I am thirsty.” It is said that Madame particularly liked to serve Bollinger with her cheese soufflés.

No less a force in promoting the Champagne grown and produced only in that sacred region of France was another female vintner, Mme. Nicole Clicquot—or, as she was later known, La Veuve (The Widow) Clicquot. Honored in the 18th century by having the house and main brand named for her, the exquisite Veuve Clicquot vintage called “Grande Dame,” which came along in later years, is a testament to how much she was revered.

Moving fast forward, we come to the big Champagne news of 2010. From Stockholm, where schnapps generally holds sway, it was reported there that a shipwrecked, 18th-century cargo schooner had been discovered on the Baltic seabed—just off the Finnish coast. Among the items aboard, divers retrieved 30 bottles of Champagne, still in excellent shape, even though their labels had been consumed by eels. One bottle was opened—the capsules, cages, and corks being in pristine condition—and its contents pronounced “fine and intense, still sparkling, and of a rather dark golden color.” Could these green-bottled “ghosts” be the oldest extant examples of Dom Pérignon—considered by some the finest Champagne maker in the world? Off investigators went to Moët & Chandon in Epernay, France, for some forensic testing. The verdict: with 98-percent certainty, based on codes etched into their corks, the bottles contained Veuve Clicquot Brut from the mid-1780s.

Producers of the official Champagne—numbering only about 60 houses in a region roughly the size of New Hampshire—have operated since the 16th century under a mind-boggling set of regulations. Legal, technical, communal, national, pan-European, marketing, labeling, moralistic, whimsical, and others just plain mysterious—all told, there are about 85 to 90 rules. Add to that, as anyone who watches the History Channel knows, devastating wars have been waged over the region ever since Attila and his Huns got smacked upside the head by Roman legions in 451 A.D.

Then, too, the weather is only so-so in dear old Champagne, and the soil has an acidic, chalky consistency that wouldn’t seem fit to support a dandelion. Well, hooray and three cheers for irony. Deep in their hearts, oenophiles know that the three grapes of Champagne—pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot meunier—thrive best on adversity. It takes a tough region to give birth to so tender a libation.

And now, let us burst a bubble of Champagne lore. The Mimosa—a cocktail served ubiquitously at brunches, parties, and “Sex and the City” gatherings—sounds as if it originated on a tropical island. But non; to the contrary, the charming concoction is actually a Bucks Fizz, named for a private club set up by the King’s guards officers in 1919 London. At Bucks, of which Sir Winston Churchill was a member, the Fizz was made of Pol Roget Champagne and—de rigueur—ripe, freshly squeezed Seville oranges.

Arguably, the most sublime and sensuous Champagne cocktail of all is served just steps away from Bucks, at The Ritz. Take notes. Put a generous-sized cube of sugar in a flute along with a dash of bitters; add two dashes of brandy—just enough to cover the sugar cube—and top up with Champagne. Finish off with a twist of orange peel and cherry. Voilà—heaven. Legend has it that Noël Coward, inspired by this creation, came up with what many believe is the most original Champagne toast of all time: “Here’s Champagne to my real friends, and a real pain to my sham friends!”

four champagne secrets

1. Start every party by offering a glass of champagne or sparkling wine. “It immediately puts a sparkle on the event and sets the right mood,” says Monica Brown, founder of Cellar XV and No. 109 Cheese & Wine.

2. It’s a great complement to many main dishes, in place of wine. “Rosé for example is great with beef dishes and cheeses,” says Brown. “Champagne is so cleansing and crisp. It leaves your mouth feeling refreshed.”

3. It makes any vacation memorable. “Todd and I always bring a really nice bottle on vacation,” she says. “Champagne is a great way to share time together.”

4. “There are many small-grower labels that make champagne and sparkling wine that don’t get the attention of television and food and wine magazines,” says Brown. “Veuve Clicquot and Moët get all the attention, but as with wine, the good possibilities are many.”

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March 2017

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Sponsor: Pound Ridge Library
Telephone: 914-764-5085
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Telephone: 914 286-7680
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Cost: $7 adult, $6 Senior/student, under 5 and member free

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Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
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Sponsor: Bruce Museum
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Cost: $120-$180

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Cost: varies

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Westmoreland Sanctuary
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Telephone: 914-666-8448
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Cost: Varies

Where:
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364 Manville Road
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Website »

More information

In what is believed to be a first for Westchester theatre, this is a festival celebrating women playwrights and directors with eight original one-act plays. Glass Ceiling Breakers offers a...

Cost: $25 general admission, $20 seniors and students

Where:
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8 Sunnyside Avenue
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Cost: $7 adult, $6 Senior/student, under 5 and member free

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
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View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Website »

More information

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Cost: $120-$180

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Sponsor: Clay Art Center
Telephone: 914-937-2047
Contact Name: Nancy Yates
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Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (2030801-9590
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More information

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Cost: varies

Where:
Jacob Burns Film Center
364 Manville Road
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Sponsor: AJC Westchester/Fairfield and others
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Contact Name: Abby Popper
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Telephone: 914- 997-6700 ex 752
Contact Name: Pat Anderson
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Cost: $50

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Old Greenwich, CT  06870
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Sponsor: Pacific House
Telephone: 917-563-2435
Contact Name: Sloane Spanierman
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Cost: Free

Where:
Grace Farms
365 Lukes Wood Road
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Grace Farms Foundation
Telephone: 203-920-1702
Contact Name: Regan Hayes
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This year we feature 38 engaging, thought-provoking, and entertaining films—a robust mix of documentaries and narratives, along with all eight episodes of False Flag, one of the latest...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Jacob Burns Film Center
364 Manville Road
Pleasantville, NY
View map »


Website »

More information

In what is believed to be a first for Westchester theatre, this is a festival celebrating women playwrights and directors with eight original one-act plays. Glass Ceiling Breakers offers a...

Cost: $25 general admission, $20 seniors and students

Where:
Axial Theatre at St. John’s Episcopal Church
8 Sunnyside Avenue
Pleasantville, NY
View map »


Telephone: 914 286-7680
Website »

More information

Last Days of Pangea: In the Footsteps of Dinosaurs November 19, 2016 - July 16, 2017 Image: Cast skull of Postosuchus, one of the largest carnivorous reptiles during the late Triassic, 200...

Cost: $7 adult, $6 Senior/student, under 5 and member free

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06878
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Website »

More information

Clay Art Center Spring Youth Classes 2017 Spin It! Spring 2017 Youth Classes start March 26 at the Clay Art Center in Port Chester and run for 6 weeks. Build your inner artist while creating...

Cost: $120-$180

Where:
Clay Art Center
40 Beech Street
Port Chester, NY  10573
View map »


Sponsor: Clay Art Center
Telephone: 914-937-2047
Contact Name: Nancy Yates
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (2030801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

The 2017 Westchester Jewish Film Festival opens on March 16 and runs through April 2 at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville. this year's festival features 38 films, both documentary...

Cost: varies

Where:
Jacob Burns Film Center
364 Manville Road
Pleasantville, NY  10570
View map »


Sponsor: AJC Westchester/Fairfield and others
Telephone: 914-773-7663424
Contact Name: Abby Popper
Website »

More information

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Show Less...

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Cost: $15

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The Harvey School
260 Jay Street
Katonah , NY  10536
View map »


Sponsor: St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church
Telephone: (914) 234-9636

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Pound Ridge Library
271 Westchester Avenue
Pound Ridge, NY  10576
View map »


Sponsor: Pound Ridge Library
Telephone: 914-764-5085
Contact Name: Pound Ridge Library
Website »

More information

This year we feature 38 engaging, thought-provoking, and entertaining films—a robust mix of documentaries and narratives, along with all eight episodes of False Flag, one of the latest...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Jacob Burns Film Center
364 Manville Road
Pleasantville, NY
View map »


Website »

More information

In what is believed to be a first for Westchester theatre, this is a festival celebrating women playwrights and directors with eight original one-act plays. Glass Ceiling Breakers offers a...

Cost: $25 general admission, $20 seniors and students

Where:
Axial Theatre at St. John’s Episcopal Church
8 Sunnyside Avenue
Pleasantville, NY
View map »


Telephone: 914 286-7680
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
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Depot Plaza
Bedford Hills, NY  10507
View map »


Telephone: 917.951.3588
Contact Name: Vanessa Pahucki

More information

Last Days of Pangea: In the Footsteps of Dinosaurs November 19, 2016 - July 16, 2017 Image: Cast skull of Postosuchus, one of the largest carnivorous reptiles during the late Triassic, 200...

Cost: $7 adult, $6 Senior/student, under 5 and member free

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06878
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Website »

More information

Clay Art Center Spring Youth Classes 2017 Spin It! Spring 2017 Youth Classes start March 26 at the Clay Art Center in Port Chester and run for 6 weeks. Build your inner artist while creating...

Cost: $120-$180

Where:
Clay Art Center
40 Beech Street
Port Chester, NY  10573
View map »


Sponsor: Clay Art Center
Telephone: 914-937-2047
Contact Name: Nancy Yates
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to announce “An Inverception,” a site-specific installation created by roster artist Jaq Belcher.   This is the first time the gallery will...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (2030801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

The 2017 Westchester Jewish Film Festival opens on March 16 and runs through April 2 at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville. this year's festival features 38 films, both documentary...

Cost: varies

Where:
Jacob Burns Film Center
364 Manville Road
Pleasantville, NY  10570
View map »


Sponsor: AJC Westchester/Fairfield and others
Telephone: 914-773-7663424
Contact Name: Abby Popper
Website »

More information

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Cost: $25

Where:
Clay Art Center
40 Beech Street
Port Chester, NY  10573
View map »


Telephone: 914-937-2047
Contact Name: Nancy Yates
Website »

More information

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Cost: 0

Where:
Clay Art Center
40 Beech Street
Port Chester, NY  10573
View map »


Telephone: 914-937-2047
Website »

More information

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