So off we went early one morning to Gare de l'Est to take the train.
Which was delayed by an hour for a reason I still don't
understand. There were announcements which were mildly
perplexing, and many people got off no doubt to find a quicker
transfer. We sat and waited.
The joys of travel.
|After we got going though we were soon whisked away |
to the lovely countryside of the Champagne region.
|Epernay - where everything celebrates Champagne|
| Of course we had local Epernay |
Champagne with lunch
|Thankfully we didn't use the |
advice of my phone
|A quick taxi ride and there we are|
|Naturally the gardens are beautifully|
I was surprised to find that the vineyard and production facilities are really right in the town of Maureuil-sur-Aÿ, behind the original house. The town was occupied during the war, but thankfully not bombed- I guess the Nazis liked champagne too and wanted to preserve it.
|The famous Clos St Hilaire vineyard|
|Bacchus watching our progress|
|The cellars are somewhat spooky, but fascinating|
|Thousands of these bottles explode per year!|
|Jerome showing us the lees.|
Riddling is done to collect the sediment in the neck of the bottle, this is then frozen and removed leaving a beautiful, clear champagne. Riddling is now largely performed by machine. Understandble as machine riddling takes a mere 4 days, whilst riddling by hand takes 4-6 weeks. Hand riddling is still done for large bottles or special vintages. Jerome told us about the production of champagne in great detail- it's a fascinating process to make those delightful bubbles- a superb blend of chemistry and art.
Billecart-Salmon age their wines in barrels that have been used to make burgundy blanc for at least 5 years.
How better to end our tour than with a tasting? I don't mind if I do.
The Brut Rose is Billecart-Salmon's most famous and popular variety. Jerome told us it was always fresh, blended with pinot noir and is lovely with any pink food- salmon, tuna, red fruits, desserts like strawberry soup (strawberry soup is a thing in France- it's very delicious). The rose is in an older style of bottle, a foundation shape. It was amazing to learn that all their bottles are made in the village- less than 5 km away.
I'd love to spend more time in Champagne. Until I can get back though I'll just have to be content to do my best and drink some as often as I can.
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