January in Champagne
Updated: Mar 18, 2019
A trip to any wine producer is something I always look forward to, however Champagne in January, as our geographically closest wine producing neighbor, was going to be just as wet and miserable as up North here in Kendal.
I was taking a team from a very prestigious hotel client to see the family run firm, Joseph Perrier, and we set off from Staveley Mill Yard on a wet, dark and miserable Monday morning at 6am
By the wonderful power of jet travel we arrived in the lovely city of Reims just in time for a spot of lunch washed down with a couple of magnums of Joseph Perrier Cuvee Royale. A great way to start "le tour"!
off we went for a look around, safe to say with a spring in our step!
A vineyard. (Not the most inspiring place in January).
The church where Dom Perignon is buried in Hautvillers. (probably not the inventor of Champagne per se but certainly the person who did most to make it what we know as Champagne.
The old press house and Manor of Joseph Perrier in Cumieres in the heart of the Champagne vineyards.
It was here I tasted, what for me, was the wine of the tour. The Joseph Perrier vintage Blanc des Blancs. An explosion of taste and finesse created from their finest Chardonnay vines in tiny quantities.
Back to the hotel for nose powdering and then a dinner date with Le grand fromage of Joseph Perrier, Monsieur Jean Claude Fourmon. A most charming, urbane and witty gentleman who is the fourth generation to head the business.
Dinner, in an authentic bistro, was superb. Proving yet again, that great food can be found in France at a very fair price. (even in a wealthy city like Reims). The repast was, of course, helped on its way by a sensible quantity of Champagne, served in magnum, which, in all seriousness, is proven to be the ideal size of bottle to store and serve Champagne from. Something symbiotic seems to happen which makes the wine taste just that little bit better than from standard bottles. I recommend you try it, next time you are thinking of buying 2 bottles for a dinner party, think magnum instead!
After a night cap in the hotel bar "HOW MUCH ?!! Sleep came easy and the morning was free to do the tourist thing, which in Reims should include a quick look around the magnificent cathedral.
A 45 minute journey to Chalon to Joseph Perrier HQ was now on the cards. Unusually, JP have remained in Chalons, where the business was first created in 1825, rather than move to Epernay or Reims where most of the household names now reside.
After a tasty lunch, we enjoyed a tour through the winery, including the impressive Roman Gallo chalk cellars which go into the hillside behind the winery and offer an ideal, natural environment for the slow, gentle maturing of the wines. Not much is occurring in a winery in January but we were lucky to find the bottling line in full swing which was fun. We then retired to the tasting lounge where we tasted all eight of the Champagnes JP produce. I must say, all very impressive, all exhibiting the same common thread, quality and attention to detail.
So all in all a wonderful if somewhat calorific trip which was enjoyed by all. Oh and I am sure there was some beneficial educational benefit passed on too!