Prompted by several news articles of a 20% slump in champagne sales and promises of lower prices in the run up to Christmas, J and I felt obliged to take advantage of this very French misfortune (not in a shardenfreuder way, ok well maybe a little) by making a trip to the Champagne region … via Disneyland. Methinks the days of having to bribe the kids with visits to theme parks so that the groan-ups can take in liquid culture are coming to an end. Not that J1 & J2 did not enjoy themselves hurtling around the dark on the Space Mountain ride, but both boys now seem to be actively interested in the tastings at the various producers we visited. In fact, we may even have a placomusophile in the making in J2 – and no, that’s not someone who has a sexual interest in bottom-sucking tropical fish but someone who collects the round metal plates, notably on the end of champagne corks!
Anyway, the trip to Champagne would not have been possible without the patience and collective planning of the group, which was made up of the Ong clan, David and our Belgian friends, Anne & Stephaan. No detail was overlooked in the preparation for our long week-end in the area, right down to the precise timing of our rendez-vous at Jérôme Viard’s tonnellerie in Cauroy-les-Hermonville. Cooperage is a dying art, and so this visit was so much more special because we were taken around by a man whose passion for making artisan (read: very labour-intensive) oak barrels for his discerning clients was clearly demonstrated in speech and skill. And the free champagne tasting afterwards wasn’t too bad either 😉
Although our travels took us from Boulard (in Cauroy) to Launois (in Mesnil-sur-Oger), the discovery of the trip was unanimously voted as Camille Savès (pictured above). Every once in a while, you get lucky and stumble upon Récoltant-Manipulants (Grower Producers) whose products sit at the top-end of the price/quality ratio – but the delicious champagnes (and his still red wine) are no result of accident, but a divine marriage between a talented winemaker (Hervé) and the Grand Cru Pinot Noir terroir that surrounds Bouzy.
Oh, and just in case any of you out there fancy planning a similar trip, I’m enclosing David’s detailed itinerary below for reference:
FRIDAY 30 OCTOBER
– ONG/DG: 12h00: Meet Ongs at Marne la Vallée RER at 12h00
– ONG/DG: Follow A4 & Marne (quick lunch, e.g. at Relais du Tardenois at km 96 of A4)
– ONG/DG: 13h30/14h00: Marx-Coutelas (03 26 58 63 64)
– ONG/DG: 14h30: Leave Marx-Coutelas to go to Aÿ.
– ONG/DG: 15h00: Collect keys from La Mongeardière.
– ONG/DG: 16h00: Meet Anne & Stephaan at Jérôme Viard’s Tonnellerie.
– ALL: 17h00: Raymond Boulard (03 26 61 50 54)
– ALL: 19h30: Dinner at Le Jardin Brasserie (Ch. des Crayères). 03 26 24 90 90. Brasserie opens at 19h15.
– Return to La Mongeardière
SATURDAY 31 OCTOBER
– 08h00: Breakfast at chambre d’hôtes. Wander around Aÿ after breakfast (maybe buy some food for a picnic at the mini-supermarket in Aÿ), or else we could choose to have a later breakfast if you prefer a lie-in.
– 10h00: Tasting at Henri Giraud, Aÿ (booked). Allow one hour for tasting.
– 11h00: Drive to Saves (Bouzy). N.B. There are roadworks in the middle of Bouzy, we might want to arrive via Ambonnay.
– 11h30: Tasting at Camille Savès (03 26 57 00 33).
– 12h30-13h30: Lunch (as a restaurant might take up too much time, we could have a picnic in the vines if it’s nice weather, or get some things to eat at Leclerc Champfleury if it’s not). Most producers are closed from 12h00 – 14h00, so let’s use this time for driving & eating.
– 14h00: ??? [this was the Vilmart slot… suggestions on how we fill it welcome].
– 15h00: “Free-format” depending on our mood – we can call ahead to Gonet-Sulcova, Launois, Veuve Fourny depending on what we feel like.
– 18h00: Either return to chambre d’hôte to relax, or go to “C. Comme” in Epernay for an aperitif.
– 19h30/20h00: Dinner at Le Lys du Roy. 03 26 97 66 11.
– Return to La Mongeardière
SUNDAY 1 NOVEMBER
– 08h30: Breakfast at chambre d’hôtes.
– 09h30: Check out of chambre d’hôtes.
– 10h00: Short walk around water gardens in Chouilly.
– 11h00: Visit Hautvillers, including the church with the tomb of Dom Pérignon.
– 12h00: Go somewhere for lunch (maybe at a café/bistrot/brasserie in Epernay or Reims… not many restaurants are open on Sundays outside of the larger towns).
– 13h30/14h00: Possibly go to the Faux de Verzy, or walk around Epernay/Reims.
– 14h45/15h00: Drop David at Reims
– DG: 16h15-17h00: TGV to Paris
– ONG: 17h50: Chunnel to England