This week in my Bloomberg News review I awarded one star to Rosemary’s in Manhattan’s West Village. It’s an affordable, “no reservations” entoeca, where all the pastas are under $15 and all the seafood starters are under $10.
It’s not where one might expect the cheapest Champagne to cost $115.
Yes, yes, to be fair, Rosemary’s is an Italian restaurant where all the non-reserve wines, prosecco included, are $40 by the bottle or $10 by the glass, a fun little pricing scheme that my good colleague Talia Baiocchi wrote about for Eater.
But again, for snobs like me who prefer Champagne to prosecco, even out of a plastic cup in a movie theater (don’t ask), the entry-level price point at Rosemary’s is $115. That is, for lack of a better term, exponentially uncool.
Here’s the thing: When I open a wine list, the first thing I look for is the price of the cheapest Champagne, by the glass and by the bottle. It’s because I like to begin most of my meals with a bit of French bubbly.
I think of it as soda pop for adults. Albeit really good pop.
If I’m lucky, there will be offerings below $90 by the bottle, like the $88 Duc de Romet at Perla, an excellent and ambitious Italian spot in the West Village. If I’m even luckier, I might find a zero-dosage grower Champagne like the $78 Drappier Brut Nature at Reynard, a Williamsburg restaurant with one of the year’s most exciting wine lists, thanks to the efforts of Lee Campbell (see Talia’s review).
If I’m unlucky, there will be “bottle service” prices for Champagne, where mass-market Moets might start at over $200, in which case you’re paying less for the wine, more for the privilege of sitting in a club where people wear $500 jeans. So be it.
Of course, these musings aren’t just dictated by the thinness of my wallet; there are journalistic motivations as well. Because Champagne is a global luxury commodity, I like to think it makes for an easy-to-understand point of reference when writing for a global audience.
For example: If I had to re-write my Bloomberg review, I might say, "The cheapest Champagne at Rosemary’s, an affordable West Village restaurant, is $115, the same entry-level price point for the expensive French bubbly as at the three-Michelin-starred Brooklyn Fare."
See my point? And let the record state that the $115 champers at Rosemary’s is for the excellent, albeit widely available Billecart-Salmon. Brooklyn Fare’s entry-level bubbly is a $115 bottle of Marie-Noelle Ledru Blanc de Noirs — slightly more of the beaten track, and slightly more difficult to find.
If I’m paying a markup for my vino, I like it to be a wine I can’t buy at any random liquor store in Murray Hill. If it’s a wine I can readily drink at home, I’ll probably only drink it at home.
Those are a few of my musings on the price of Champagne. There will be more.