CHAMPAGNE REGION

We leave Paris camp ground and head back to the Champagne region. We just didnt get time to see anything there and after all the wine we have tasted and drunk, we cannot leave without having some of the worlds famous bubbly.

Our first nights stop is located at a small winery called Jaques Chopin in Venteuill, a very small village with a hand full of wineries. Its Sunday and they were supposed to be open until 3pm but when we arrive at 1pm they are closed. Damn shame as we were looking forward to having some champagne. They only take a handful of campers so we took a spot and stayed the night.

In the morning i went in to pay as they normally charge for electricity and a shower and toilet (that were locked though) but the fellow didnt want any money. He convinced me that i should have a champagne tasting at 10am and since i wasnt driving i agreed. We learnt so much about champagne it is quite amazing.

I thought it was just the name that caused it to be so expensive but how wrong was i. All wine growers in the champagne region are governed by an authority body that regulate the industry. They can grow as many grapes as they like but each winery is given the amount they are allowed to pick each season. The grapes are not allowed to be watered/irrigated or sprayed during their growing period, they must remain natural. The vines must be pruned a particular way and anyone doing so must have completed the certified course. When the grapes are to be picked the authority tests that they have the correct sugar amount for the type of grape and give the go ahead to the winery. The pickers also have to have done a certified course and they must be picked by hand in a certain way. They must press the grape in the allowed way. The bottle they put them into must be a certain weight and have a certain glass thickness which is why they all look alike. Some do 3 pressings of the grapes, the first is what they use, the 2nd is in case they do not have the required amount or to bring the sugar content of the 1st pressing up and the 3rd pressing they use for any apperitifs they might make later. They often keep aside a reserve of extra wine in case one season has a huge failure and they can use their reserve stock. Also champagne is aged much longer than any wine is so it isnt available for many years.

Now when i buy champagne i will appreciate that so much extra effort has gone into making it what it is. Unfortunately these small wineries do not have the means to export so the only champagne we get is from the huge wineries and it isnt necessarily the best either. The champagne we tasted here was devine. The grapes can be different in the  many champagnes and we learn what some of them are. We thought the price was very reasonable at €15 a bottle so buy 2 that are lovely. Actually much better than my palate thinks of Moet and the others we have in Aus which this wine maker tells us are really thought of as rubbish in France, but for their marketing and hugeness plus ability to export we probably wouldnt buy it.

We took off for Epernay after our champagne lesson as i did want to go to the Moet and Chandon house. I was going to book us in for the tour and tasting there but at 24euro each i am glad i didnt when i can get tastings for free at the smaller wineries which i enjoyed far more. We still had to go to Moet and Chandon though as they are also the makers of Dom Perignon which would have to be one of the finest champagnes in France. I tasted Dom when i got engaged as a 23 year old and my memory tells me it was the most devine thing that i have ever had in the vein of alcohol. In fact i hummed and haaed over buying a bottle in Epernay but at €140 a bottle, i wondered if  having another bottle would spoil the memory of that candyfloss style bubbles that i had so long ago, so restrained myself and we moved on.

Epernay was not very big and not a very interesting place to be so after leaving Moet and a quick walk around the town we left. The parking aire was not a desirable place to be either and it was really hot and we needed to have windows open all night to cool down.

We drove up into the hillside wineries to a place we had been told about called Mutigny. There were only us and another GB couple there and we had a wonderful view over all the surrounding vineyards.

After a hot night, the next morning wasnt much different, we walked around the few streets around us to check out another local champagne tasting place. We found most were closed but a local village town hall was open. They did charge for their tastings but when one of the ladies heard we had travelled to her home country of Croatia, she opened a bottle of pink champagne and sat with us and shared it as we told stories of our travels there. What a lovely couple of hours we had there chatting to them.

We then headed away from Montigny and down towards Troyes. On our way we passed the huge processing plant of Moet and their glass houses of wine vats. An amazing sight, it was massive. It was mid afternoon by this stage so decided not to go too far as it was still a scorcher and we couldnt keep windows open if we went to Troyes that night. We stopped at another winery with another Spanish couple. We all had our togs on and were going to the tap on a frequent basis to hose ourselves down. Unfortunately the owner of the winery wasnt a very pleasant lady and strangely made us not feel very welcome. I think she hated the idea that our French wasnt fantastic. Also she wouldnt do any tastings if we werent going to buy 6 bottles. I didnt know the words for ‘what if i dont like your champagne and dont want to buy any after tasting them’??? Stupid woman. Im sure she wouldnt have sold very much to campers stopping in her aire with that attitude. I always wonder at people like that, not understanding why they encourage people to stay at their place if they dont actually like people very much.

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