Tag Archives: Champagne

Champagne, in the snow…

How do you keep your spirits up when the weather is grim and grey? Drink bubbles of course! And the best bubbles are from the Côte des Blancs in Champagne, where chardonnay rules and the dosage sugar is kept low. So that’s where we go early December…

And blimey it was blanc, très blanc. We beat the snow by a day, but it caught us up. Not that it stopped us drinking the stuff, copious quantities, all in the name of research (to get our tastiest bargain…)

Épernay has a little festival first week in December – Les Habit de Lumière – well worth a visit if you want to see how the locals consumer their fizz…

Ahem…, several of the drinkers in these shots may well not be from Épernay at all… I shall not give their identities away…

Gimonnet and Bouquin Dupont came out top in our dedicated and fastidious research, so we stocked up (Mrs P cannot go a week without at least one glass of blanc de blanc); the car was loaded up and off we headed home, into the teeth of a storm and a slightly anxious ferry crossing. Didn’t spill a drop or pop a bubble. That’s the way to do it!

(Duchies – we missed you this year. Don’t go missing this again!)

Champagne baby, Yeah!

Now personally I am rather partial to Côtes du Rhône, love a Gigondas, and delect over a delicious German Riesling. And I go crazy for a 2005 Ciaccipicolomini, the best red ever! But occasionally Mrs P needs bubbles, and there’s only one thing to do – a road trip to Champagne!

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And it really is like a road trip. Frankly the driving is a joy. Three and half hours on empty roads from coast to vineyard – I drive fast – a dream compared to the M25, where are all the people? (in the south of France is the answer – I mean, if you can why wouldn’t you!). I should be in a sports car with the top down, but hey, I need the space in the boot for the bottles, and I respect Mrs P’s barnet, so we’re in the people carrier.


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Épernay is the destination, and it’s the Fête du Champagne this weekend. We are meeting friends, so the party is on. We shall do some private tastings at micro-Champagne houses, and then go for the big boys at the Fête. It’s party time!


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Did you know that there are 100 million bubbles in a bottle of Champagne (count them if you don’t believe me). Le Champagne is the drink, La Champagne is the region. And the Côtes des Blancs is so because of the Chardonnay grape, not the chalky soil.


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See that little straw in the barrel above. They take that out to let some air in when they bottle from the barrel so that the wine doesn’t disturb the sediment at the bottom of the barrel. Amazing how easy it is to learn stuff when you’re having a little drink…


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Bouquin-Dupont Blanc de blancs. Creamy and dry at the same time, like a crème brulée zapped with an electric current. Awesome, and a steal if you buy direct from Dominique, the grower, at 15€ a bottle. And we did, buy that is… Lucky I had the space in the boot of the car for all 50 odd bottles. Should keep Mrs P happy for a week or two.


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(All photos with the iPhone – who needs a Leica..? Me, I do, I do, I do!) Santé! Prost! Cheers and Happy Christmas to all! Joyeux Noel as we say in French. May all your festivities be filled with bubbles! À la prochaine…

Happiness is…. Champagne!

Isn’t it odd how a bit of fizz can create such happiness in the world… And the best fizz of course is Champagne. Which is why every so often Mrs P demands a weekend trip to France to stock up on the happy making drink.

bottles of the bubbly stuff...

Bottles of the bubbly stuff…

I must admit I’m rather partial myself and being a francophile I don’t mind zooming across the Pas de Calais and Picardie to get to the Chardonnay vineyards just east of Paris. And how beautiful those vineyards were this weekend! It was cold, very. The frost had come down in force. Whilst Mrs P stayed in the warm luxurious hotel run by Champagne wizard M. Selosse, I got myself out to take some pics…

"le givre", I learned...

“Le givre”, I learned…

left overs for the birds

Left-overs for the birds

Now Moët et Chandon (don’t forget to pronounce the ‘t’) and Pol Roger is all very good, but we tend to go for the smaller viticulteurs. For a start their prices aren’t so astronomic, and they’re much friendlier too. M. Tissier, head of the cooperative in Chavot-Courcourt, gave us the full tour of the winery and then a full tasting of the full range of all his champagnes, plus a full glass of Marc de Champagne. Impossible not to indulge and buy 6 cases there and then…

they used to turn this lot every day by hand. Now a machine does it every hour.

They used to turn this lot every day by hand. Now a machine does it every hour.

Now M. Tissier’s nectar is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and very occasionally a hint of Pinot Noir. My favourite bottle is also stored for 3 years in Burgundy oak barrels (min 5 years old so the tannin has disappeared of course!). As a contrast however, we felt it was imperative to investigate M. and Mme Bouquin Dupont’s champagne as well. Nothing like another glass (or more) to crystallise one’s tasting notes…

no machinery here. All turning done by hand.

No machinery here. All turning done by hand.

the old ways are still the best!

The old ways are still the best!

les proprietaries showing us how to get the cork into the bottle (personally I like getting it out)

Les proprietaries showing us how to get the cork into the bottle (personally I like getting it out)

The Bouquin Duponts specialise in Blanc de Blancs – that’s just chardonnay and nothing else to you and me – so impossible not to add another 6 cases of that to the credit card damage. Lucky I brought a large enough car!

And then on to party into the late evening. Epernay was hosting its Champagne festival so we felt we ought to indulge just a bit more. As you can see, the evening remained completely sober throughout.

Our good friends Jan and Desiree getting into the spirit!

Our good friends Jan and Desiree getting into the spirit!

Mrs P keeps a firm hold on her bottle...

Mrs P keeps a firm hold on her bottle…

Well, I did say it was a happy making drink! Cheers, tchin tchin, and a Merry Christmas to you all.