Tasting champagne in Champagne – are you coming?

Artisan_du_Champagne_MKB_34April is one of the best times to come to Champagne, before the season really gets going, and if you’re a champagne enthusiast, you’ll definitely want to be at one of four of the best and most dynamic champagne tastings taking place this year.

The first is the Terroirs et Talents de Champagne and  takes place in Epernay on  Sunday 13th and 14th April at the Restaurant Au  Théatre. In no particular order (!) Champagne producers taking part at this tasting will include:

From La Montagne de Reims:

  • Aspasie
  • Maxime Blin
  • Penet Chardonnet

From La Côte des Blancs:

  • de Sousa
  • André Jacquart
  • Vazart Coquart

From La Vallée de la Marne:

  • Janisson Baradon
  • Michel Loriot
  • Sélèque

And Jacques Copinet from Le Sézannais
and  Coessens from further south in La Côte des Bar

To book your place at this event, simply email: terroirs.et.talents@gmail.com

Your next date is on  Monday 14th for the Terres et Vins de Champagne at the
Hotel Castel Jeanson, Ay, and in no particular order,  the champagnes being presented at this tasting will include:

  • Horiot
  • Agrapart
  • Françoise Bedel
  • Bérche
  • Francis Boulard
  • Chartogne-Taillet
  • Couche
  • Doquet
  • René Geoffroy
  • Etienne Goutourbe
  • Jeauneaux-Robin
  • Benoit Lahaye
  • Laherte Fréres
  • Tarlant
  • Leclapart
  • Franck Pascal
  • Hubert Paulet
  • Pouillon & Fils

Go here to book your place at this event (unfortunately their website is not up to date for 2014)

http://www.terresetvinsdechampagne.com/home/formulaire.php

Go to Formulaire d’Inscription

And third is Les Artisans du Champagne on 15th April at Chateau Les Crayeres, Reims.  You’ll be able to meet and chat with these producers there:

  • Maillard
  • Paillard
  • Savart
  • Huré
  • Hébrard
  • Gerbais
  • Doyard
  • JL Vergon
  • Alfred Gratien
  • Margaine
  • Vilmart
  • Lancleot Pienne
  • Dehours
  • Gonet Médeville

You’ll need to go here to get yourself into this event:

http://www.lesartisansduchampagne.com/

Go to Inscription en Lignes,

And finally, on the 16th April, David Pehu and his group will be presenting their champagnes, venue to be confirmed, so let us know if you want more details and we’ll be sure to get them to you when we know more.

Well, if that’s not a great selection of small producers, I don’t know what is!   CLICK HERE to book your room.  Looking forward to seeing you in Champagne in April.

Stay Bubbly!

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Questions raised about living in Champagne

Hello again,

We’ve had a lot of questions about what it’s like to live in Champagne, so I thought I’d do a blog post to answer them for you.  So here goes…

What are the costs of running the house?

There are three charges to pay that are relatively fixed:

Taxe d’Habitation (residents’ tax) which is approximately €80 per month

Tax Fonciere (property tax) again about €80 per month

Assainissement ( Local water cleaning services ) around €430 per year

 Variable running costs

The house is heated by gas, and including electricity,costs approximately  €330 per month

The water supply is metered and costs approximately  €77 per month

Keep in mind that the approximate costs mentioned above include the costs of running the whole house including the B & B.

I work from home. What’s the Internet access like?

There is broadband service to the house which is reliable and comes in at around €36 per month

There is reasonable coverage for mobile (cell phones) which can vary in different parts of the house, but it is generally reliable.  SFR is the best service provider for the village

I don’t have much experience of driving in France. Is there any public transport?

There is little in the way of local transport. A car is necessary. The huge advantage though, is that there is very little traffic and driving around here is still pretty enjoyable.

What are the neighbours like?

In general people are very family-oriented and tend to keep themselves to themselves. Nevertheless we have never experienced anything but kindness and helpfulness from any of the villagers.  We’ve made some great friends here.

The house itself is one of several in the centre of the village with adjoining walls and/or gardens. As happens the world over they occasionally have parties, but these are once or twice a year and not a problem.   The upside of that is whenever we have a party, no-one complains.  The French really do “live and let live”.

How easy it is to set up a business?

This is an area in which you need to take specialist advice but our own experience is that there are two main options:

a)You can register as an auto-entrepreneur (self-employed sole trader).

This does not require any capital investment however there are certain limits to the turnover you are allowed before you have to register as a company. No bookkeeping is required; you simply report your turnover each month or each quarter and pay a percentage of tax on that amount.  At the moment, the flat rate is 15%.

b)If you register as a business you will need to invest a capital amount. In this case complete bookkeeping is needed to record income and expenditure. Tax is paid on the net profit.

The current upper income limit for a B & B is €81,500 per year

Note that a B & B may have up to 5 bedrooms. More than that and it is classified as a hotel which brings with it a lot more regulations and costs.

Will I have to learn to speak French?

That depends on you, and what you want to get out of your experience in France.  You know when you see foreigners all grouped together in your country, how does it make you feel that they don’t speak your language, and yet they are living in your country?   If you want to get the most enjoyment and the best experience of France, then you’ll need to be able to speak a little French.  And when you try to speak French, they will help you, (except in Paris of course!)

Are there many English speaking people living there?

Yes, in fact there’s a small but growing, supportive ex-pat community in the region, and we get together regularly to do silly anglo-saxon things, like carol singing, bonfire night etc. The French think we’re mad, and we probably are!

Do you have some more questions?  Simply drop us an email at yvonne@lesmolyneux.com and we’ll be happy to answer them :-)

 

5 and a half reasons to live in Champagne

When guests visit us here at the B&B, they often ask us what it’s like to live in Champagne, so I’ve put together my 5 top reasons (and a half) to base yourself here:

DSC05269There’s a slower, much less stressful pace of life here.  Everything revolves around nature, the seasons and the rhythm of life.  There’s a natural connection to the earth and you can feel it everywhere.  I feel it when I walk my dog, Pepper in the vineyards and along the forest trails.  You can see the seasons coming and going, and you can almost feel the world turning.  What would it be like to be able to walk  just 5 minutes to the vineyards and 5 minutes to the forest, so you  have no excuse to get out every day and exercise.  It clears the head, relaxes the body and I often have my best ideas while out walking.  How about you?

 

champersmap2champersmap2Champagne vineyards mapChampagne is easy to get to and from, being just 3 hours’ easy driving from Calais, Strasbourg, Brussels, and Luxembourg, and just 45 minutes on the high speed train from Paris.  This is bliss if you want to get to London and back in a day.  Imagine being able to leave home at 7am and be in London for lunch, hit the shops in Oxford Street and be back home sipping a glass of champagne by 10pm!  Transport links are so good, on uncrowded roads, stress-free driving and fantastic trains that run on time.

 

ferme_closed_conge_ferie-Image-INFOSuroit_com_Respect for life and respect for others is something that the French do so well.  What do I mean by this?  I often say that the big difference between the Anglo-Saxon culture and the French culture is that anglo saxons think: first I’ll make money, do business, go to work and then if there’s any time left, I’ll live my life.  The French think: first, I’ll live my life, and then if there’s any time left, I’ll make money, do business, go to work.  The paradox is that the French are one of the most productive countries in the western world.  So what is their secret?  Life comes first, family comes first, making money, doing business, working comes second.  This means that although this can be really annoying to anglo saxons because the shops aren’t open on Sundays, and are often closed at lunch times, and your favourite restaurant in Paris is closed during August,  they have the work/life balance right, and that in itself makes for a less stressed out life for me.  How about you?

Two flutes of Pehu Simonet at The Perching BarChampagne!  Need I say more?  Champagne is everywhere here, and it’s taken like tea in England.  At the school fete, at the dancing gala, at the village fair,  in the mornings, in the afternoons, in the evenings, anywhere, anytime.  Why drink anything else when you can drink champagne?  And you won’t find fancy glasses or fancy labels either.  Any kind of glass will do, even a plastic cup will do, and who cares about the labels?  No-one does, in fact small local producers’ champagnes are far more valuable here in the villages than the big international names, that we all know and love.  If you love champagne, there couldn’t be a better place to live, honestly!  And with over 5000 small champagne producers to visit and taste, you could be here for a long time!

Sunset in Champagne 2The weather!  Yes, I know that the English always talk about the weather, so I couldn’t write about life in Champagne without mentioning the weather…. Because of the distance from the sea, the weather in Champagne is a lot more settled than in the UK so when the sun comes, it tends to stay all day.  I know this is a strange concept for all the Brits, but it’s true, the sun can stay out all day here and remain out for several days in a row, sometimes turning into weeks of uninterrupted sunshine!  The temperature in summer can reach into the high 30s, and it is indeed glorious.  On the other hand, because of the distance from the sea, the weather here is quite settled (I think I mentioned that already) and that means in winter it can get very cold for long periods.  Snow often comes in late November, and can hang around for days and sometimes longer, and then we often get more snow in January and February, but life is not interrupted by the weather.  The local mayor gets his tractor out with his snow-plough attachment and the roads are clear quick as a flash.  No drama.

So that’s five great reasons to be living in Champagne!  So what’s the half?  There’s a fabulous B&B for sale right now just waiting for you to snap up ;-)  Check out the details by CLICKING HERE

See you soon in Champagne?

 

Tt le mondeThe dates for the champagne harvest for 2013 have been announced, and it starts in Verzy on the 4th October for Chardonnay grapes and the 6th October for Pinot Noir grapes.

And you can come and get involved if you want to experience the atmosphere and the excitement of the highlight of the year here in Champagne.

Your day starts with a trip out to the vineyards and armed with a pair of secateurs, you’ll be instructed on what to pick, how to pick and where to put the grapes when you’ve picked!

And then, off to the press house to enjoy the process of crushing the grapes and watching the juice being extracted, followed by a tasting of the juice straight from the press.

Lunch follows where you’ll enjoy 3 champagnes and a typical harvesters lunch with the team.  Would you like to come?

Click here to find out more and we’re looking forward to seeing you in Champagne for the 2013 harvest ;-)

 

 

Why is champagne so expensive?

Tasting at Henriet-Bazin 2Fancy making your own champagne ?

Many people who come to our B&B ask if we own vineyards or is the champagne we’re serving, the one we make ourselves…..

Well, no, on both counts, and here’s why…

A hectare of champagne vineyards at the lowest quality (cru) is currently valued at and costs in the region of 1m euros to buy, with a hectare of grand cru vineyards valued at 2m euros, that’s if you could ever find any vineyards to buy.  Vineyards typically change hands between existing champagne producers, by word of mouth, so as foreigners, this would simply not be available to us, even if we wanted that.

There used to be strict rules governing the sale and purchase of vineyards, meaning that the larger champagne houses were not allowed to buy up the smaller vineyards, otherwise there would be a monopoly.  In France, everyone has to have the opportunity to make a living, and so the larger houses and the small producers co-exist happily together, with no-one holding all the power.

I am not so sure any more  that there are official rules about this or that it would even be legal for there to be rules. I think that people try to avoid selling to the big brands if they can for exactly the reasons I’ve mentioned, but money talks and sometimes people will sell for a good deal whoever the buyer is.

new vinesHere’s a new vineyard that’s just been planted in Verzy.  I’ve been following the work going on in this vineyard while out on my daily walk with Pepper, our dog.  These little babies will one day be adult vines, producing beautiful juicy pinot noir grapes to make into champagne, but it won’t happen overnight, which is another reason why we would never want to own any vineyards.

Here’s what happens…..

The little vines will take 5 years to be fully fruit producing adults, worthy of producing good champagne.  During that time all the money is tied up in the investment, with no cashflow whatsoever.  And  then when the vines are fully grown and the grapes worth picking, it will then be another 3 years before the champagne is made and on sale  for you and I to buy.

I make that a total of 8 years investment, with no return, and no guarantee of the end result being good enough to be part of the champagne making process.  Plus, our one hectare will yield around 10,000 bottles and let’s say the selling price is 12 euros a bottles, then your revenue would be around 120,000euros before tax.  So that means it would take almost 10 years to get your money back on your investment in the 1 hectare of average quality vineyard.  Sounds good so far?  But wait there’s more….

adult vinesYou’ll need to spend time and money working the vineyard – the vines don’t just grow on their own – well they do but left to Mother Nature, they won’t produce the result you want in terms of quality.

Then you’ll need to pay the pickers as the harvest is all done by hand. No machines allowed here.

And you’d need to buy a press which you only use a couple for weeks per year ( or pay for someone else to press the grapes, perhaps by joining a co-op)

You’d need to buy vats to ferment and store the wine, acquire cellars to age the wine ( or again  pay someone else to do it for you e.g. join a co-op)

All in all you are probably looking at 20 years or even longer to get your money back!

It’s a risky business, for sure, and I know that if I had 1m euros to invest, I’m not sure I would choose this investment, would you?

And people ask us, why is champagne so expensive??????

To which we reply…. Why is champagne so cheap?

 

Want to learn more about champagne and the people who make it?  Check out our private champagne tours and tastings by CLICKING HERE

 

 

 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Hello and thank you for coming over.  Before wishing you a fabulous Christmas, I’ve got some exciting things to tell you first:

Thing 1

We’re closing until the 18th March 2013 to do some renovations and decorating, so if you’re interested in watching us transform the little building on the other side of the courtyard into two fabulous bedrooms, then I suggest you subscribe to the Blog by clicking on the little orange/white button at the top right of this page.  I’ll be posting regularly on our progress, and by subscribing you’ll get an email every time I do that.

Thing 2

We’re going to be managing our neighbour’s house next year.  It is for sale and they have moved out, but in the meantime, until they find a buyer, we are going to be offering it to you as a Gite, which means that if you want to come to Champagne for an extended length of time and prefer to do your own thing, then you’ll be able to book the gite when I put the details on the site after Christmas.  The house has 4 lovely bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, lounge, dining area and kitchen plus a lovely sunny courtyard and pool!  It’s perfect for (adult) families or groups.  Again, if you subscribe to this blog, you’ll know first when it’s ready to go.

Thing 3

As you know we offer meals here at Les Molyneux, which I cook myself.  Next year, we’re going to be using the services of our local French chef, Christophe Ponsart, who has worked in a Michelin star restaurant in Epernay, and now runs his own business.  He will be preparing delicious gourmet meals for you., so you’re in for a treat there!

Thing 4

We’re going to have to raise our prices next year, due to increases in energy, but for you as part of our community, we’re holding the price increase until the 5th January, so if a trip to Champagne is on the cards for you in 2013, then please do book before the prices goes up on the 5th January.  You’ll probably be planning your trips for next year over Christmas with your friends and family, so now is a good time to take advantage of 2012 prices.

Thing 5

Finally,  we have had a spectacularly successful year this year, thanks to you.  Yes, you.  Choosing to stay with us, giving us feedback, writing reviews on Trip Advisor has made our year, and we couldn’t have done it without you.  I want to thank you sincerely, from the bottom of my heart.  We raise a glass to you and wish you a fabulously

Merry  Christmas

and peace, happiness and prosperity to you and your loved ones in 2013 and beyond.

Looking forward to welcoming you again to Champagne in 2013.

 

Yvonne and Jiles xx

 

Champagne Festival in Epernay

The « Habits de Lumiere » Festival in Epernay is only a couple of weeks away now, and the theme this year is “Imagination”.

Your weekend starts at 6.30pm on Friday 14th December, on the Avenue de Champagne, where the usually closed doors of the large champagne houses, fling open their gates and invite you in to taste their champagnes at the bars,   indulge in the gourmet food, listen to the live music, and maybe even dance.

Chestnuts are roasting on the street, fairy lights adorn the buildings, and the sound of music, Jazz, Spanish, Mexican is everywhere along this famous street.

At 7.15pm the street procession begins at Place de la Republique and finishes at the top of the Avenue de Champagne at Mercier, where at 8.30pm you’ll witness an amazing firework display set to music.

Time to head on back to the champagne bars and indulge a little more perhaps?

On Saturday 15th December, there’s more, with many local celebrated chefs giving live demonstrations of their culinary skills and of course there’s wonderful delicacies to delight your tastebuds.  Art exhibtions, photographic exhibitions and of course cellar visits, followed by the street procession again at 6.45pm, and then back to Chateau Perrier for a fabulous light display and perhaps another glass of champagne?  Why not…

And on Sunday morning, if you’re feeling up to yet more champagne  (and why wouldn’t you be? ), there’s a vintage car procession starting at 11am through the town of Epernay.

A fabulous weeked not to be missed…. Are you coming?

 

Walking with Pepper along the CBR

It’s a beautiful crisp, cold and slightly foggy day today here in Champagne, so I decided to step away from the computer and take Pepper for a longer than usual walk.

I love walking, especially with my dog.  It’s so refreshing to be in nature, to hear the rustle of the trees, the birds singing and the quiet solitude of the forest.

My favourite walking trail is definitely the CBR which stands for Chemin de Fer de la Banlieue de Reims – a former railway line spanning over 400 kms and connecting 180 villages in the Champagne region.  It was built in 1894 and played a very important role during the first World War carrying ammunitions, materials and indeed the wounded.

This is an old picture of the station in Verzy which is now a private house.  The stations are easy to recognise because they all look the same, built to the same specification. However, as time went on, the railway network was used less and less, and like many European suburban railways, was sadly dismantled in 1966.

But what’s left is over 400kms of trails for us to enjoy on foot or on bicyle around the region.

The bit which passes through our village, Verzy, is now part of the old pilgrim trail to both St. Jacques de Compostelle in northern Spain and the Via Francigena which leads to Rome.

When I walk just a little bit of this trail, those destinations sometimes call to me.  How about you?

Champagne Harvest 2012 is coming soon


How would you like to join us here in Champagne and experience the highlight of the year – The Harvest?  We’ve put together a programme so you can do just that!

Between the 20th and 30th September, you have the opportunity of becoming part of the harvesting team for one day,  picking the grapes, following them to the “pressoir”, tasting the juice as it comes directly from the crushed grapes, and experiencing the atmosphere and excitement of this special time.

Your day will begin at one of our favourite champagne maker’s “vendangeoir” where you’ll pick up your secateurs and be taken into the vineyards with the team, where you’ll begin picking.  You’ll then follow the process back at the “pressoir” and witness first hand how it’s all done champagne-style.

A traditional harvester’s lunch and some serious champagne tasting is included, and all you need to do now is to book yourself a place by clicking here.

The package includes:

  • Two nights’ B&B accommodation at Les Molyneux
  • Dinner on your arrival night with champagne and wine
  • A full day out with one of our favourite champagne makers

Prices are 355 euros for one person and 520 euros for two people sharing a room.

Here’s what you need to do now:

  1. Simply Click Here to book your accommodation at Les Molyneux
  2. Choose two nights’ between the 20th and 30th September
  3. Put a note for us in the Comments Box of the reservation form that you want to come on the Harvest Special

That’s it!  We’ll then organise your day’s harvesting, and be in touch with you again very soon.

Places are limited, so hurry and book now and we’ll see you soon in Champagne!

Yvonne

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