Craving Champagne

LLNYC savors the sparkling wine trend with an effervescent visit to Riddling Widow

The mood is brooding and cool at Riddling Widow.
The mood is brooding and cool at Riddling Widow.

Way back when the gentlemen who ran France’s Champagne houses met their untimely ends, their widows — or, en Français, their veuves — found themselves running the show. There was Madame Lily Bollinger, Mathilde Emilie Laurent-Perrier and Louise Pommery, but certainly Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin, also known as the Veuve Clicquot, might just be the most famous of them all.

Not only was she the first woman to take over a Champagne house, but she developed “riddling,” a method of removing the sediment from Champagne by storing the bottles at a 45-degree angle and twisting them every so often.

She was the original riddling widow.

At 127 MacDougal Street, down some stone steps and through a red door, is New York City’s own Riddling Widow. Owner Ravi DeRossi explained that he wouldn’t call it a Champagne bar, despite the connotation. “I’d call it a sparkling wine bar,” he said.

Still, Champagne has a strong presence on the menu, underscoring its ever-increasing appeal with professional and casual drinkers alike. “Everybody I know in the cocktail world — almost everybody I know — is like, ‘Give me Champagne any day of the week,’ and when I say Champagne I mean Champagne, Prosecco, Crémant, Cava — all the sparkling.”

“Everybody I know in the cocktail world is like,
‘Give me Champagne.’”

The subterranean spot is decked out with high red stools, a velvet couch and black baroque wallpaper. It’s dark, brooding, intimate and very, very cool. Music is, of course, supplied by a trumpet horn turntable and an accompanying stack of equally cool LPs.

The bar, which opened in October, has had a
complete menu overhaul. Ariel Arce of Birds and Bubbles, the Lower East Side spot delivering that not-so-classic pairing of Champagne and fried chicken, has just taken over from Tanner Walle as Riddling Widow’s beverage director.

Wines by the bottle now range from a $48 2014 Folk Tree California Pét-Nat to a $350 Jacques Selosse “Initial” Champagne, with many great selections in between.

The by-the-glass choices, written up on a large chalkboard, seem to vary from night to night, but there’s a tasty effervescent option for everyone, from traditional to sparkling to rosé.

DeRossi, who opened his first bar in 2004, now owns 15 bars and restaurants across the city — including the globally famous East Village cocktail bar Death & Co — and has five new projects set to open this year.

For Riddling Widow, his inspiration came from his own tastes. “I had the space already, I already had the license — no idea what I was going to do with it. Champagne is what I like to drink, so I thought why not,” he said.

His aim was to create a place that was cool, laid back, educational and unpretentious. An approachable vibe paired with a knowledgeable staff and industry regulars certainly seems to tick all those boxes. We’re sure the Veuve Clicquot would approve.