I attended a special celebration last night—a gala for the South Orange-Maplewood Adult School featuring Andre Braugher, Norbert Leo Butz, and Isaiah Sheffer. And what did they pour to commemorate their 75th anniversary? Champagne, of course. I don’t know the producer or the vintage, but from what I could spy of the bottles swimming in silver bowls of ice water, it did look to be French, thank heavens.
Last fall I met a pretty française on a flight from Bordeaux to Paris. She had an enviable lifestyle only suited to the young—work long enough to make money for the next trip, then head off for friends in far flung points around the globe. She always stuffs her luggage with Champagne, Bordeaux, and foie gras to take to her amis, even during a trip to India. As we chatted, she told me about her shock when she discovered that Americans were making wine and calling it Champagne. “But how can they do that?” she asked me. I wasn’t prepared on this six a.m. flight to defend America’s free-wheeling use of the term. I didn’t want to let her know we had also appropriated Chablis and Burgundy. Instead, I told her that I completely agreed with her. We can drink sparkling wine, cremants, cavas, proseccos, but when we drink Champagne, we want it to come from France. We want to know it was made in the méthode Champenoise. No other beverage has its cachet. When the occasion is truly memorable, as it was last night, nothing is more fitting than indulging in the authentic pleasure of a glass of Champagne.