"Everyone thinks that champagne is just for celebratory reasons — unless you're of the upper echelon," says Peter M. Landis, managing partner of Perlé, a champagne-and-tapas lounge in Downtown's Market Square.
Indeed, a quick glance at Perlé's extensive menu of bubbly may well seem intimidating to the novice. Perlé boasts more than two dozen champagne selections, including exclusive vintages like Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label.
"A lot of people come in and are very hesitant about ordering champagne," bar manager Jennifer Welsh acknowledges. "They feel like they don't know a lot about it," she says.
But Perlé is doing everything it can to make drinking champagne a more inclusive experience.
One of the biggest challenges in serving champagne, Landis notes, is that "once you open [a bottle], you can't put the pressure back in," and you quickly lose the effervescence that champagne is known for. That's why many bars have just one or two champagnes — usually cheaper brands — available by the glass.
Landis is working with Greensburg fabricator Tony Garrow to build a proprietary system of hermetically sealed champagne taps, which would keep a bottle fresh for several days. He's been using the system intermittently to work out the kinks (the flavor goes off if the wine sits for a few days). "It's still a prototype," Landis says, and while it's out of commission now, "we'll get it working."
In the meantime, Welsh created a line of champagne cocktails to complement the established classics on the menu.
Her take on the Bellini is especially successful: She replaces peach purée with Lambic Peche beer. The result is a cocktail with greater depth of flavor than the classic, while still retaining a perfume peach nose.
And what if you are part of the economic 1 percent, the type of patron who feels utterly at home hoisting a dipped-in-gold, $475 bottle of Armand De Brignac? Perlé's palatial balcony overlooking Market Square is as good as any place in Pittsburgh to do so.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story understated the number of Champagnes available at Perlé.