We know you’ve all been dying to hear about how Jane and I made our fabulous way around Paris and Champagne during those glorious two weeks in May. Now the bubbles have settled, I will attempt to share some of the magic with you!
For those of you who followed our fabulous escapades on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram you will know that Paris put on the most spectacular welcome for us – there was a state procession, complete with the President himself, on the Champs Elysee. It was completely unnecessary, but after the absolutely wonderful reception we got at the Sofitel Arc de Triomphe when we pulled up the night before, we were really starting to expect the star treatment!
(From left to right: ‘Welcome Parade’ or ‘May 8 Peace Day Parade’ call it what you will…; Visiting all the important places)
After a couple of days of shopping and sightseeing in Paris, we headed off to pick up our trusty steed that would take us around Champagne. Unfortunately all they had available for us at Europcar that day was a Postman Pat type van, but on seeing how utterly fabulous we obviously were, they were able to do some rearranging and get us a little SUV complete with SatNAV.
We became really good friends with ‘Bruce’ – our Australian voiced SatNav man – and we were thankful for the car’s off-road capabilities since Bruce was intent on taking us for ‘short cuts’ through the vineyards!
We quickly found out that if you really want to visit Champagne, you definitely need a car. (Or enough money to hire a chauffeur for a week, but perhaps we’ll save that for next time!) Athough the larger Champagne houses are located in the two main towns of Reims and Epernay, to see any of the the smaller houses (and with 4,500 producers in Champagne, there are a LOT of small producers to see) or any sign of a vineyard, you really need to be brave and tackle the left hand drive!
As guests of the Comité Interprofessionel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) and through various personal connections, we had an amazing itinerary of visits during our stay in the region. Starting with the historical ‘Crayères’ (chalk cellars) of Ruinart, and ending with the enigmatic ‘grande artiste’ Ansèlme Selosse from Champagne Jacques Selosse, we met some amazing people and had some fabulous experiences.
We were shown into the inner sanctum of the CIVC to their professional tasting room, we visited champagne libraries (Oenotheques) with priceless collections of vintage Champagnes and we learnt more about the champagne making process than we ever thought possible.
From left to right: At the bottling line; Paying homage to the Veuve; In the CIVC ‘inner sanctum’
We saw the bottling process, from disgorging to labelling, tasted still wines straight from the cask and drunk rare champagnes that are made from one very small plot of land, often the size of the average suburban backyard. We visited vines from different regions, with different slopes and different orientations, and stopped short of licking the chalk on the ground to understand the minerality it brings to a wine! We even stayed in a real live Chateau – with a moat!
From left to right: Our Chateau – with moat!; Through the tree tops to the Perching Bar
Each place we visited was an adventure. It is impossible to say which visit was the highlight, since everywhere we went had some surprise in store for us. But, if I had to pick one experience that summed up our whole Fabulous Ladies stay, it would have be the day we went to Bollinger. Pasty and Eddie would be proud
While at Bollinger, we played it totally cool…
After a private visit of the estate and cellars at Bollinger, we were invited to lunch with the commercial director, a very elegant gentleman named Guy de Rivoire. As befitted the gorgeous surrounds, we had our own personal menus, the gift of a leather bound pen, and the recently released Bollinger R.D. 2002 to accompany our meal.
But we are not calling favourites! We were both struck by not only the innate hospitality of the people we visited, but the absolute passion with which they all talked about their wines. I truly think the Champenois have bubbles in their blood. You cannot help to be happy when you are around them!
From left to right: Just another day in Champagne; Holding back a wall of Magnums at Ruinart; Champagne with a view of Reims Cathedral
Not only that, but historically woman have played such a huge part in the industry, and there are still many woman in influential roles from the big Houses to the smaller growers, such as Florian Eznack, head wine maker from Champagne Jacquart – an absolutely delightful young woman with a wealth of knowledge and talent.
I can’t wait until our next Fabulous adventure!
The Champagne Lowdown
Places we visited in Champagne:
- Champagne Ruinart – the classic master and the oldest Champagne house. Amazing chalk ‘Crayeres’ (Champagne caves).
- The Perching Bar – sip Champagne in the treetops. Literally.
- Champagne Paul Dethune – gorgeous boutique producer making classic Pinot Noir heavy Champagnes.
- Champagne Vilmart et Cie – no malolactic here. Vilmart stop at the first fermentation to preserve clarity of flavour. Pinot Noir heavy Champagnes.
- Canard –Duchene – one of the largest and most successful Champagne houses. Fantastic quality. They even do one of the first ever Organic Champagnes.
- The CIVC – the HQ of Champagne. Oversees the entire region and the promotion and sale of Champagne internationally.
- Champagne Jacquart – Another large house, with fantastic, classic Champagnes. The brilliant Florian Eznack heads up the winemaking at this place.
- Champagne Roger Manceaux
- Champagne Bollinger – Lily Bollinger was a legend. And so is her Champagne. Enough said.
- Champagne Franck Bonville – Small producer making cracking Blanc de Blanc (Chardonnay only) Champagnes
- Moët et Chandon – where Napoleon visited on a regular basis. Now one of the most successful Champagne houses of all time.
- Champagne Pierre Moncuit
- Veuve Fourny et Fils – Possibly the most exciting Blanc de Blanc (Chardonnay only) Champagnes coming out of the whole region.
- Jacques Selosse – the Champagne rock star. You can only ‘apply’ to buy these Champagnes. Such is the mystery and scarcity of the production.
Places we stayed :
- Sofitel Arc de Triomphe – the mother of all Paris Sofitels.
- Au Palais Champenois – the most charming private guesthouse in the heart of the Champagne region
- Château d’Etoges – the palace! With the moat. And a fantastic restaurant too.
How we got around :
- Flights: Air France
- Car: Driveaway Holidays
- Shoes: Bared Footwear – fabulous shoes, designed by a podiatrist, so your feet can go all day from Petit Dejeneur to Parisian nightclub.
How we connected: