It was supposed to be the highlight of our trip to Champagne – the tour and tasting at the famous Jacques Selosse Cellars. The tour guide was the famous winemaker himself and the tasting included both vins clairs (the wine before it is made into a champagne), as well as a hefty range of the finished product. We were very excited that we were able to book a tour. However, the tour was not exactly what we thought it would be..The Selosse tours are only open for the hotel (les Avises) guests. We were only able to score places due to visiting the restaurant a few days before and persistently asking. As we were chucking down quite a lot of grower champagnes, I think the waitress warmed up o us, and booked us in. She just forgot to mention that the tour was only available in French, and as I have mentioned before, we can barely muster out the words Bonjour.
We arrived to the Selosse mansion again Saturday morning, all giddy about the events ahead. To our horror, there were about 30 other people as well waiting excitedly, including a group of Japanese with their professional cameras and recording devices. It felt like we were joining some kind of tourist attraction instead of a friendly vineyard tour. It was Anselme Selosse himself who did all the talking, apologizing several times from his bad English. He seemed genuinely sorry, so I cannot really blame him for the inconvenience, but we were quite devastated that we could not understand a word that he was talking about for a whole two hours. The first hour was actually just listening to Anselmes philosophies. A friendly French lady translated some of the discussion, but we all still felt very betrayed.
During the tour the winemaker explained his philosophies. He is very passionate about what he does. I doubt there was much new, as I have read a lot about Anselmes thoughts about terroir and how not to intervene too much in the development of the wine. The grapes are his babies and he is just there to nurture them to give their best every year. With the help of our unofficial translator, we could understand a bit about the differences about growing grapes on a flat surface versus on a hills. We also tasted some vins clairs from different plots, some facing south and some the north. Amazing what a difference the geographical positioning has on the grapes: same grape, same year, even the same soil. Just a little bit of more or less sun. This was perhaps the most interesting part of the tour.
The last part of the tour was a tasting of the finished products: Initial, VO, Millessime 2005 and 2005. I have previously only tasted the Initial so it was great to get a better grip on the selection. I am not sure if it was our sunken mood or what, but the more expensive vintages did not taste like something I would pay 500 € for. Perhaps they were still a bit too young as well.
After complaining that we were not told about the language barrier before the tour, we did not have to pay for it (the price would otherwise have been 40€ per person). However, the whole experience including the sour look on the staffs face left a bad taste in our mouths. It was not really about the money. I do think that the winemaker himself was actually sorry. He seemed like a man who really wants to tell his story to people who care. Not to be too harsh, I think everything would have been great if we would just have known to come prepared. We could have paid someone to come and translate for us. All in all I am of course happy about having the experience. Here are a few photos to give a taster of what it was like.