I felt elegant just holding the bottle. The sanguine heft of the mysteriously dark glass piqued my curiosity.
“That is a really nice bottle of Champagne. He must really like you.” Katie looked at me sincerely with her big blue eyes. She always seemed more sophisticated than me; at least that’s how she wanted me to feel.
I nodded and put the vintage bottle of Louis Roederer in my parent’s refrigerator. I am honestly curious why my chef-friend/pursuer wasted this bottle on a 19 year-old still living at home. But the pressure inside the bottle matched my curiosity about advocated “nice” bottle of champagne. Having recently learned how to appropriately open a bottle of champagne (working at the restaurant of said Chef) I insisted on sharing it with him and opening it for us. On a late weekend night, after the restaurant was closed, with lights dimmed, I “popped” the champagne. The flaxen treasure bubbled up to the lip of the our flutes. I was in love. Unfortunately for my Chef-friend, the only thing I fell in love with that evening was the toasty warm blanket of champagne.
Although my love for champagne has far outpaced my income, I have managed brief flings with my French crush. Only a few years later a too-old-for-me-surgeon pleased to be having dinner with his much-too-young-for-him-but-wearing-a-short-skirt companion bought us a bottle of Cristal at an elegant dinner. Having never had that much money in my checking account, let alone in my dinner budget, I was quivering with excitement. I remember not the name of this surgeon, only the hot flushed rush at the first sip of the height of Roederer cru.
Later that year when I celebrated my 21st birthday, I did it with Moet-Chandon White Star. Like the French celebrating liberation I honored this purchase. The cork stayed with me for many years. My Moet White Star cork collection grew with each occasion: graduation from college. The return of a separated lover. The purchase of my first house.
Throughout my twenties, as other friends were finding creative mixes for liquors like Captain Morgan’s rum, I was seeking intimate moments where I could be with French Champagnes. Erika, a kindred spirit, and I found creative ways to indulge our bubbly pining despite our frequent poverty. Having foregone a week’s worth of groceries, we went to the best restaurants in our growing culinary city of Phoenix and Scottsdale. We ordered lush appetizers (only) and a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin. Glowing with excitement at each lovingly created morsel and flushed from our bubbly, each occasion a celebration of youth, independence, hope.
Yet, We were seeking love, and each experience felt as though it were created especially for us; made us feel special, if only for a moment. While our hearts might be breaking, a well built bite of food and a glass of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin soothed all shattered dreams. Occasionally we would find “surgeons” or similar escorts who paid for our memorable Champagne experiences. The morning-after call to Erika always began with “Well, what did he order?” We would dissect each part of the meal together, reliving it, re-drinking it.
On my honeymoon, on an isolated Fijian island, I was thrilled to see that they had French Champagne: Nicolas Feuillatte. Never has a glass of champagne been so refreshing than enjoyed on a deserted Pacific island. After breakfast, after love, after dinner, after a swim, each bottle carried joy and laughter and intimacy. The crisp, fruity tones were as alive as my heart. Today, this remains our “house” champagne. Each cork popping snapping me back to the magic of honeymoon love.
I grew up with Champagne; I hope I die with a glass of it in my hand. Although its magic is still far too infrequent, I wonder if that is what makes it romantic? I drink wine at home every week, but Champagne is reserved for occasions. I turn to champagne particularly during times of new beginnings. Perhaps its the tawny transparency of the wine that makes us consider the days ahead in a warm light. The golden color making us feel opulent. Maybe the bubbles rising to the top of an elegant flute reminds us of our hopes and dreams. Maybe the giddiness of the bubbles makes us forget our worries.
Whatever the reason, Champagne with its long, esteemed history remains a romantic choice. A mood setter. A go-to for celebration. And one of the most widely regarded romantic foods.