Even in the winter, the vineyards are beautiful

Tuesday

Today was orchestrated by the Purple Truffle http://www.purpletruffle.com and Francois, our driver for the day, arrived at our hotel to take us to the Champagne region of France. As Francois drove through the outlying suburbs of Paris that turned into picturesque countryside,  he elaborated on the history of the region and pointed out monument markers for WWI cemeteries, pastoral villages, and, of course, the vineyards. Everything that grows in Champagne is controlled, from how much juice you save each year to who can buy or sell the harvest. We learned there are different ways to run the vineyards. The big houses both grow and buy grapes to make their wines, some vineyards sell their grapes and do not make wine under their own label, and the last type of champagne houses control their wine from planting to bottling.

Our first stop was at Le Gallais in Boursalt and we were lucky enough to meet winemaker Charlotte Morgain. What is now the domain of Le Gallais at one time belonged to Veuve Cliquot, and the real Veuve Cliquot built a castle for her granddaughter as marriage gift that resides on the Le Gallais property. The tasting was fun and delicious!

The house that Veuve Cliquot built for her granddaughter. Thanks, Nana!

We had lunch at Brasserie La Banque, a restaurant and champagne bar in Epernay . I’ll confess my oldest was battling a cold and I was exhausted from a jet-lag induced sleepless night, so we did not enjoy any of the champagnes available by the glass with our meal.

Our next visit was at the family-owned Paul Dethune house in Ambonnay. Our tour was led by Sophie Dethune and we had to step over the hoses of her husband as he tended the tanks-the very definition of family run! Their champagnes are aged in barrels and, for me, gave the champagne the body and structure I’m looking for in wines. Sophie is passionate about both the history and future of Champagne, and convinced me that it is worth the time and effort to find the bottles from the smaller houses. There really is something to supporting anyone who is tilting at the windmills of globalization.

Our last visit to was shortened because of overrunning our time at lunch and Paul Dethune, but we were graciously hosted by Henri Giraud Champagne in Aÿ. The Giraud house is investigating how using barrels made from the wood of different sections of the nearby Argonne forest can influence the taste of the wine. The Giraud Brut Naturale was my daughter’s favorite. Our driver Francois kept us entertained and learning more about France as we drove the ninety or so minutes back to Paris.  New post tomorrow!

The barrels are stamped with the plot of the vineyard and the section of the forest from which the wood for the barrel was harvested!

The house collaborates with artists and thanks to that, the tasting room has a truly eclectic feel.

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