Ariel Arce is a breath of fresh air when it comes to getting people to drink Champagne everyday. “For the last eight years of my life I have been working towards the idea that Champagne should be an everyday beverage,” Ariel explaining her mission with opening Ari’s Champagne Parlor in the Greenwich Village of New York City. But her intention was not to just force a trend, it was more about her observance that Champagne producers were making much more serious, complex wines and that the bubbles were second. In Ariel’s words people were starting to think, “Okay, I can drink this with food. This is something I can have all throughout a meal.” But Ariel wasn’t deemed “the Champagne Empress of Greenwich Village” by The New York Times just because she placed a bunch of interesting bottles on her list. She wanted her customers to have more fun with Champagne and she knew if they learned more in a light-hearted, playful environment they would get a lot more out of drinking various Champagnes. Her menu breaks down the various sparkling wine regions around the world as well as including a “Champagne for Dummies” section. As if that would not already be enough she looks for ways that can “become comprehensive connectors” to understanding tasting notes.
Flowers Bring A Sense of Scent
Ariel held a workshop at Niche Niche, her new restaurant where different sommeliers or winemakers curate the wine picks on a rotating basis, in partnership with the Champagne Bureau that would highlight the use of flowers as comprehensive connectors when it came to viscerally understanding some of the more cerebral tasting terms.
First, Ariel started with NV Pol Roger Réserve Brut as it is a big Champagne house she admires that still employs hand riddling while the bottles are aging on its lees. Also, it was a classic style with equal amounts of the three grape varieties used for Champagne: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. White callas lilies were used with lilacs both giving a delicate spring quality which was expressed in the Pol Roger. The callas lilies were subtle aromatically yet they had an interesting shape that visually conjured aromas that seemed more sculpted in nature as oppose as what a softer structured flower would elicit.
Then Ariel moved to the grower Champagne, Demière-Ansiot Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay) Grand Cru Brut, that seemed to bring out more aromatics in the lilacs, and vice versa, when both were smelled side by side. But the addition of ranunculus white flowers which are delicate as well as hearty, as they are able to make it past spring throughout all of summer, really seemed to express the Demière-Ansiot bringing out its finesse and complexity.
Then the tasting/flower experience took a sharp left turn to a grower Champagne that some consider to be one of the best that no one has heard of, Christophe Mignon Brut Nature – a 100% Pinot Meunier Champagne. Ariel noted that Pinot Meunier is many times the “forgotten child” that gets over-shadowed by Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Despite this Brut being made by a red grape, it is in a white style and so it had red fruit notes. Flowers that would express the red berry notes that had hints of earth such as pink carnations that automatically placed one in that mindset of moving towards blushed fruit; and peonies with their big, fluffy abundance illustrated the playfulness of this wine yet its earthy floral notes gave that same sense of place that was evident with the Christophe Mignon.
Then Ariel brought out the rosé wines, the style of wine that most look forward to during the summer, and started it off with Delamotte Brut Rosé, a Champagne she calls one of the “best values” because its sister house is the legendary Salon. This rosé was created by blending red still wine into the final blend, before the process of making bubbles happen, which is the typical way to make rosé in the Champagne region as they consider blending a serious art. Deeply-pink roses that connected to that rose oil note in the wine and ruby-colored snapdragons with their shapely, long bodies represented a deeper kind of red-berried richness with subtle texture that was also found in the rosé,.
And then when the final Champagne, Drappier Rosé de Saignée Brut, came out dahlias, with their bushy, tuberous and herbaceous quality, joined this unusually rosé Champagne that is created by the saignée method where the juice of the red grapes are “bled” off the skins. The dahlias gave a sense of the Drappier Rosé de Saignée Brut’s smell by its dramatic look of all its petals creating a beautiful pattern that represented the multifaceted aromas of this rosé.
See, Smell, Feel
Ariel said, “A big part of my job is to connect people to words and vocabulary that they would not necessarily pick out.” It may seem odd to think we can smell qualities like softness, sculpted, finesse, elegance as well as anything that has to do with earth or minerality but it is more of an exercise of giving a name that means something, provokes a feeling, to an aroma in a Champagne that one cannot describe; instead of pretending one is a scientist in a lab trying to find out what one precisely smells. And that is one of Ariel’s gift as she knows how to reach out to her customers in a meaningful, exciting and simply fun way.