One Bottle

The Charles Heidsieck Non Vintage Brut Réserve

Date October 31, 2009 at 10:00 PM

Publication THE magazine

Categories Performing Arts


Jackson Pollock was born on January 28, 1912, in Cody, Wyoming. His father, LeRoy Pollock, was a land surveyor for the federal government. Jackson was the youngest of five brothers. He grew up in Arizona, and later in Chico, California. After being expelled from high school in 1928, he enrolled in Manual Arts High School, in Los Angeles, and got expelled again. After the expulsions, Pollock accompanied his father on a series of surveying trips through the Southwest. During these trips, he became familiar with Native American culture—its art, its architecture, its landscapes, and its people.

In 1930, Pollock moved to New York City. In New York, Pollock and his brother Charles Pollock studied under Thomas Hart Benton at the Art Students League of New York. Between 1935 and 1943, Pollock worked for the WPA Federal Art Project. In 1945, he married Lee Krasner, whom he referred to as “a fine woman painter.” In November of 1945, Pollock and Krasner moved to The Springs, a village near East Hampton, on Long Island. Using money loaned to them by Peggy Guggenheim, they bought a house and a barn on a few acres. The barn became Pollock’s studio.

Pollock spent the next ten years destroying, reimagining, and reinventing modern painting. By tacking his canvases to the floor of his studio and pouring liquid paint onto their horizontal surfaces, he defied the convention of painting on a vertical surface and gave birth to a genre: action painting. “When I am in my painting,” he said, “I’m not aware of what I’m doing. It is only after a sort of ‘get acquainted’ period that I see what I have been about. I have no fear of making changes, destroying the image, et cetera, because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well.”

Pollock’s paintings are not depictions. They do not represent chaos. They present chaos to you. When you stand in front of one of his paintings, you are confronted as much by your own inability to comprehend the painting as you are confronted by the painting itself. If the painting has a subject—and there is no guarantee that it does—then that subject may or may not be your emotional response to the painting. Your response transforms you, the viewer, from an observer into a participant. By asking something of you, the painting changes the way you see everything, including the painting. All of this happens in a matter of seconds.

Between 1947 and 1950, Pollock became a celebrity. In 1949, LIFE magazine dubbed him “Jack the Dripper” and suggested that he might be “the most famous living painter in the United States.” It was during this period that a reporter asked Pollock, “How do you know when one of your paintings is finished?” and Pollock replied, “How do you know when you’re finished making love?”

Which brings us to the Charles Heidsieck Non Vintage Champagne Brut Réserve.

In the glass, the Champagne is a luminous, transparent gold. It may be a trick of the eye, but in direct sunlight the bubbles appear to pass through each other. At first the bouquet is lean and cautious, but after a few sips it starts making lavish promises. On the palate, the Champagne is like a beautiful woman’s smile. It is more of a suggestion than a statement, a mystery better left unsolved. The finish lasts for quite a while. Inside the finish there is a flat spot, an empty zone, where you can rest, relax, and lose track of who you are. It is a space between moments, a break in the rhythm of time, and it is my favorite thing about this Champagne.

You can buy the Charles Heidsieck Non Vintage Champagne Brut Réserve on line for $37 a bottle, plus shipping. Sites like (physically located in Redwood City, California) or (in Menlo Park, California) will give you ten percent off if you buy a case. I think $37 a bottle is very reasonable for this Champagne. It tastes better than the other non-vintage Champagnes, and when I taste it side-by-side with the vintage Champagnes that sell in the $80 to $125 per bottle range, the Heidsieck always emerges as the Champagne of the evening.

This month’s column appears on the tenth anniversary of the first One Bottle. In the November 1999 issue of THE magazine, I talked about the 1985 Château Cheval Blanc, and why it is a sin to open great wines for people you dislike. Ten years and one hundred bottles later, a few words of thanks are in order. I want to thank my publisher, Guy Cross, for giving me the opportunity to write for THE magazine, and for being a loyal and wonderful friend. I also want to thank everyone who reads One Bottle. Contrary to popular opinion, writing is not a solitary exercise. Each time I get an email or a telephone call about One Bottle, either pro or con, I know I belong to a community. Once a month, I get to visit a place where taste, love, madness, and wine converge. I like it here. Thank you for making this
place possible.

On August 11, 1956, Jackson Pollock died in a car crash less than a mile from his studio. He was forty-four years old. In 2007, David Geffen, the entertainment tycoon, sold a painting by Pollock entitled No. 5. 1948 to David Martinez, the Mexican financier, for $140,000,000. The price stands as the all-time record for a work of art.

How do you know when you’re finished making love? If you’re just having sex, and love is missing from the equation, the answer is obvious. On the other hand, if love is involved, then the honest answer is, you never know.

One Bottle is dedicated to the appreciation of good wines and good times, one bottle at a time. The name “One Bottle” and the contents of this column are ©2009 by Joshua Baer can be reached at For back issues of One Bottle, visit