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Celeb Chef Champagne Pairings and Veuve Clicquot's Feminist Legacy

Celeb Chef Champagne Pairings and Veuve Clicquot's Feminist Legacy


We got expert tips from masters like Bobby Flay and Wolfgang Puck, and the dishy backstory one of the top bubbly brands.

You probably pop champagne for every special occasions (promotions, anniversaries, haircuts), but it turns out you're missing a lot of opportunities to tickle your throat with bubbles. According to Chopped judge and Iron Chef star Geoffrey Zakarian (pictured below, left), champagne should be served "all day long." Last month at Savor Borgata, the annual foodie weekend at the eponymous Atlantic City hotel and casino, Zakarian told Out, "It's one of the only drinks you can have for cocktails at six and continue to drink for the entire meal. When dinner's over, people want champagne again, so just serve it all the way through."

When we asked Wolfgang Puck--the official caterer of the Academy Awards' Governors Ball since 1994--what mealpairs best with champagne, his response didn't exactly reflect red-carpet glam: "Champagne goes better with Chinese food than any other beverage. The bubbles clean your palate better than wine, and you need something lighter with all the sauces in Chinese food. Drink a rose champagne with Peking duck." Puck also suggests drinking from a Bordeaux glass to appreciate the full bouquet, or at least never use champagne flutes, a sentiment shared by Christina Murillo, champagne specialist at Moet Hennessy, which distributes and markets Veuve Clicquot, one of the most storied champagnes in the industry.

At a seminar and tasting in the Borgata's intimate Tesoro Lounge, Murillo and Guillaume Grillon, Moet Hennessy's on-premise manager, let the champagne flow while dishing Veuve Clicquot's fascinating feminist legacy. The brand, like most in 1772 (and 2014, for that matter), was started by a man, Philippe Clicquot. But it was Clicquot's wife, Barbe Nicole Ponsardin, who launched the brand to superstardom when Cliquot died young. Dubbing it Veuve Clicquot (Veuve is French for widow) Ponsardin took control of the company, thrusting it into the lives of European nobility. Consider her a pioneer in recognizing the importance of star power in branding--we still consider champagne a symbol of class over 200 years later.

Writer Brandon Schultz sips a glass of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label.

And have you been watching those videos of champagne-sabering all over social media? You have Ponsardin to thank for that, too. When she was defeating Russian blockades to get her product into the Imperial Russian court, guards started opening her bottles with their swords, giving birth to the flamboyant party trick that's probably best left to professionals today. Meanwhile, you may consider the packaging for Veuve Clicquot's popular Yellow Label to be orange, but the French for "yolk" and "yellow" share similarities, and the detail-oriented widow had a very specific chicken-yolk color she found striking, handpicking it for her product's merchandising.

From Yellow Label to the La Grande Dame Rose 1995 that was poured at the seminar, there's no denying that while champagne may be great for any occasion, it's still the only choice for special occasions. So if you're not yet comfortable busting out the bubbly for your Memorial Day picnic, and want to reserve it for haute cuisine, take the advice of celebrity chef Bobby Flay (right), who told us to pair it with caviar. "The bubbles in champagne make your taste buds tingle, and when you eat caviar, the baby eggs give you the same [sensation]," Flay said. "They pair really well together." Of course, if you can't afford champagne with caviar on a regular basis, just enjoy a glass with breakfast--and whatever other meals come up that day.

Chef photos courtesy of The Borgata. Follow Brandon Schultz on Twitter @BrandonAlexandr.

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