It is Sunday and our time in Champagne has come to an end. I am currently sitting on one of the only trains going from Reims to Paris today. The strikes are hitting the rail road hard, but we were lucky enough to secure seats. Soon we will see how the capital of France is coping with the upcoming events and a flooding Seine. I must say I was a bit worried before the trip about all the fuss, but being here everything has just fallen in place. And of course, bad weather and transport issues meant significantly less tourists.
I will write more about the individual champagne house tours and tastings later, but here are a few teasers on what to expect in the coming weeks.
There is no question about which visit was the best. Bollinger took the trophy with an unanimous vote. We were lucky enough to get a private tour at the house that does not officially take any visitors. This is all thanks to the Swedish importer and Martin, who was persistent enough to convince them that we are worth granting special access. Bollinger arranges tours, but mostly for professionals ( we are semi-professionals, right?). During the tour we learned what makes Bollinger stand out from the crowd of big brand champagne producers. They have quite specific techniques that give the champagne its signature style. We were also granted access to a landmark, the Bollinger VVF (Vielles Vigned Francaises) vineyard. The two plots of original, pre-Phylloxeira vines are a piece of history that one cannot take for granted will always be there. I really feel lucky to have had the chance to get inside the gates. Martin was so excited, he asked to take a small bag of the soil with him.
The worst of all visits was Tarlant, the house I expected almost most from. There have been several articles mentioning them as one of the best houses to visit close to Epernay, but perhaps all the media attention has gone into their heads. It was definitely the worst value visit of our whole trip. First and foremost, they were very friendly. Nothing wrong with that. However, they showed up 15 min late for a one hour tasting, and the tasting cost 25 Euros for five sips of wine. In most places, we did not pay anything as professionals, even though we always offered to. And if we bought a few bottles the tasting price was not charged. At Tarland, the tasting wines were nothing special, and the price was ridiculous. Having come all that way to Oilly, we did however not want to leave without a feel for the house range, so we just paid up.
The third visit worth mentioning here was the one to Jaques Selosse because it was so silly. We were absolutely delighted to be able to score places on a tour conducted by Anselme Selosse himself, only to discover that it was all held only in French. Now some of you might think, what the hell wher we thinking heading to the countryside of France without a French speaker to hold our hands. But really, we did not expect a house like Selosse to even let us join the tour without language skills. Mr. selosse himself was actually very apologetic, so I actually want to say very nice things about him. He was quite the character, but seemed like a kind and passionate man. However it was of course a huge disappointment that we could not understand a word he was saying. The tour as such was good, but it was overcrowded with people that know nothing about champagne and were ther just for the tasters. So regardless of the good agenda, tasting of vins clairs and four different selosse cuvees, it felt like a circus. I wish it would have been a different and significantly smaller crowd.
So thats it for the teasers. Plenty of more champagne writing comingnup in the next weeks, and I have taken perhaps two or three thousand photos that I will enthusiastically start editing when we get home tomorrow. Now to enjoy Paris for another 36 hours. Right now I am perhaps a bit sick of champagne, but I am sure the feeling will pass before dinner. When in France…