Arblaster & Clarke's Product Executive, Laura Dale, experienced champagne in the region it calls home...
Getting to know champagne – in Champagne
“My father once told me that wine was a serious man’s drink, but champagne is to woo the girls. So I always knew which one I would drink!”
Seeing the mischievous glint in our guide’s eye as these words left his mouth, and a cheeky grin spreading across it, I couldn’t help but smile too. Remi Brice, the current co-owner of Champagne Brice, may jovially discuss his love of champagne, but his life-long passion and work is far from a joke. Having joined the Champagne House in 2004 with his brother, Jean-Rene, the pair have worked tirelessly to continue the well-respected family name, purchasing cellars dug in the 19th century in the heart of Bouzy and opening a pressing centre to cater for cooperatives around France.
Visiting three Champagne Houses in a fleeting visit to Reims, while their aesthetic make up differed at each, their principals remained the same: hard work, pride and above all, passion. Starting with an introductory champagne tasting led by Guide Lecturer and wine master Conal Gregory on our first night, our group of novices learned the long and meticulous process of turning voluptuous, juicy fruit into delectable sparkling liquid; from the decisions behind grape choice and vine combination, to the soil and location of vineyards, bead size and Brut levels, each choice carefully crafted to produce a specific taste, fragrance and texture.
Our first visit was to Ployez Jacquemart, a champagne house passed through three generations and who pride themselves on their traditional methods, loyal to the Champagne region. Escorted through the wine cellars, press house and main building by Charles, we were shown how the grapes are pressed to extract their juices (the cuvee and taille), blended, stored to ferment, undergo tirage and maturation to eventually culminate into the delicious drink we all know and love. At Canard Duchene, the expansive cellars speckled with striking modern artwork made to reflect the champagne making process made for an interesting and alternative interpretation. Known for their association with the art of sabrage (opening a champagne bottle with a sword), record breaking attempts and holding tournaments between sommeliers, the additional treat was that our guests could try their hand at the tradition. Although damped somewhat by the rain, it did not stop the enthusiasm of the chosen three who took part, each one all the more delighted by the certificate, bottle top and cork they received afterwards. Two enjoyed it so much in fact, that the bought their very own sabre to take home!
Albeit brief, the variety of houses with their notable, warm and passionate guides, paired with the company and extensive knowledge of our wine master Conal, the visit could not have been a better introduction to champagne. I mean, I always knew I liked it, but I’ve learned to respect it too. So pass me a sabre, hand me a bottle, then stick a cork in me – though I’m far from done.
To enjoy experiences similar to Laura’s, join our Pre-Christmas Champagne Weekend in December:Spend three days in Reims, visiting amazing champagne houses, sampling delicious produceand grabbing the chance to stock up on bubbles before the holidays.