A hunk of yeasty, chewy bread smeared with creamy butter and sprinkled with flakes of sea salt — these flavors perfectly echo the qualities of fine Champagne so revered by lovers of the lees-aged French sparkler. And a plate of exactly that with a glass of bubbles makes for a perfect pairing, said Ravi DeRossi (Mother of Pearl), nightlife veteran and owner of the recently opened Riddling Widow (127 Macdougal Street, 212-598-1809), a sparkling-wine-focused bar in Greenwich Village.
The subterranean space, formerly Spanish restaurant Sol, also opened by DeRossi, makes more sense as an evening boîte than dinner spot. He’s outfitted the gritty, twenty-person room with red stools, a velvet couch, and palais black velvet wallpaper, creating an intimate space for drinking — much like lounging in the den of a glam goth friend who also has really good taste in (and access to) classic and offbeat wines. In the early evening hours, Riddling Widow will likely lure canoodlers looking for a sophisticated drink in the student-heavy area, but DeRossi expects a flow of late-night industry folks to follow later.
His new joint having now been open a month, DeRossi confirmed his initial suspicion: “The majority of the people coming have been industry: sommeliers, chefs, bartenders, and servers from around town looking for a chill place to go late-night after work where they can drink bubbles that no one else in the city is serving by the glass. Everyone that has come seems to know everyone that’s already there,” he said.
DeRossi entrusted expert Tanner Walle (Terroir, Proletariat) to curate the wine program. He’s composed a sparkling heavy list (obviously), peppered with still wines to sip alongside natural pairings like oysters and mignonette, the aforementioned plates of bread and butter served with various salts, and good cheeses.
Walle selected Duc de Romet Brut Prestige, a non-vintage Blanc de Noirs, as the house Champagne pour. “House” is a misnomer; a glass runs $19, and the brisk acidity and lemon-bright finish speak of far superior wine than typical for the category. Offerings will rotate regularly, but Walle will always serve around fifteen still and bubbly wines by the glass. The most recent list had twenty-plus bottles ranging from $36 for an easy, aromatic Côtes de Gascogne (home to Armagnac) dry white to a $136 Les 7 extra brut NV Champagne from cutting-edge grower-producer Lahertes Frères. Walle supplemented the sparkling category with other treats like Murgo’s berry-scented nerello mascalese rosé brut from Sicily’s Etna and a 100 percent chardonnay Cremant du Jura from Domaine Rolet.
The name Riddling Widow refers to the method (riddling) of gradually hand-turning Champagne bottles into an upright position to remove the dead yeast sediment (lees) from the wine, as well as to the eighteenth- to twentieth-century veuves (French for widows) who perfected the practice and ran the Champagne houses after their husbands passed, most notably Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin, Louise Pommery, Mathilde Emile Laurent-Perrier, Madame Camille Olry-Roederer, and Madame Lily Bollinger.
Basically, lovers of great Champagne are forever indebted to the ingenuity and tenacity of these women — and now New Yorkers have DeRossi’s new bar in which to honor them by drinking it.