It’s an easy step from last week’s subject to this one. Not in kilometers though. I guess the Champagne region is almost 1500 kilometers from Brindisi, Puglia.
So we just returned from a short but sparkling weekend in the Champagne. Belgians are said to be bon vivants, and I truly believe this… While the European Union is trying hard to be united – which isn’t working out so well I am afraid;-) – the license plates still betray where you come from. Guess which license plates dominated in the Champagne? Right! Belgian ones.
Hubby made a reservation for the first night in Chateau du Faucon. I hadn’t checked it out in advance, so it was a real – pleasant yes – surprise to me. A typical french “chateau.” We arrived when it was already dark, and the lights outside illuminating the cold dark sky and this beautiful building made it look fairy-like. We were guided to the old stables of the castle, which were built into comfortably small studios. Dinner was served in a smaller dining room (there was a big party being held in the big room), where a fireplace created a romantic and warm atmosphere.
Walking around the gardens of the chateau in the morning felt even more special, the grass and paths glittering white from the frost. Breakfast was served in the same wonderful room.
And then off to the tastings. We are no “connaisseurs,” but we are lucky to have friends who are happy to assist us. In the center of Reims we went down to the “Caves du Forum” where they have a big selection of Champagnes. Our goal was to find an “accessible to all ages” champagne to drink at the holiday season. Mission completed! But the most fun was driving around in this beautiful sloping landscape, just as we did in the afternoon. If you ever want to visit, the perfect timing would be a month earlier though, when the color pallet is more vivid. Now most leaves had dropped.
We visited three Maisons de Champagne in the afternoon. The second one, Guillaume Sergent, was an organic winegrower. He explained that this way of working is not only better for the customers, but also for the farmers themselves. While picking grapes, you don’t need to worry about harmful products on your hands. We tasted his wine, still in barrels. The first steps of making Champagne is very similar to still wine. The total procedure takes time and a lot of skills and knowledge. The most difficult step is the blending of different grapes from various vineyards and several harvests. This is a highly skilled task, combining as many as 70 different base wines (which change in character each year) into a consistent “house style” cuvee.
As you can imagine, much of the taste of the wine, depends on the soil where the grapes grow. Guillaume showed us the local earth that was used as cement to build his farmhouse. Surprise! We could detect shells in the sandy cement, from ages ago when the sea still reached as far as this region. The result? Among all the flavors in his great sparkling wine, was a little touch of salt.
Did you ever read the book ‘Perfume‘ by Patrick Suskind? Excellent wine tasters must have a great nose for discovering all the layers in the wine. I am not gifted in this way 🙂
The next morning we walked around in a sunny Reims and visited the magical 13th century Cathedral, where we lit some candles for those who left us too early.
Cheers to Thanksgiving, and enjoy a sparkling weekend!